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Brass tacks, whale-the-synonym, midway

Brass tacks
I learned a new idiom! "getting down to brass tacks" Never having heard it before, I naturally assumed it was an English Englishism, but this page tells me that it was first attested in Texas in 1863.

"getting down to brass tacks"

I use it myself
27(22.7%)
I know it well.
61(51.3%)
I have heard it before.
29(24.4%)
It's unfamiliar.
1(0.8%)
Brass tacks?
1(0.8%)


Whale-the-synonym
It suddenly struck me last week that "whale" as a synonym for human fatness, along with "blubber", seemed distinctly American to me (as opposed to British). True?

Midway
At dinner last week after her BSFA interview, Jo Fletcher wondered what a midway ride was. We settled on a "fair ride" as the closest easy translation.

Then this week, I read Drop Dead, Gorgeous (thanks to impulse library browsing), a large swathe of which takes place at an Iowa State Fair fairground which really does not resemble the original. For example: what main building? And if you had a large fairground designed to host tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people, would you keep it closed 50 weeks a year if you could possibly use it a fair number of other weeks of the year for other events? By the time our main characters have done an incoherent tour of various farflung bits of the grounds, they could have been out of an exit many times over; but they were waiting for "the" exit.

Also, and more relevantly, the well-known really-tall slide is no indication at all that they are on the midway. Because it isn't.

Comments

momist
Oct. 4th, 2011 08:34 pm (UTC)
Midway
My first and only experience of the use of this term for a fair-ground (or perhaps, part of one?) is in a song by Pete Atkin, written by Clive James, called "Beware Of The Beautiful Stranger". This was on an eponymous album in the 1970s. The lyrics are full of references that now have to be explained to young people, such as the gypsy charging a quid and then holding the queen's head up to the light.
owlfish
Oct. 4th, 2011 09:12 pm (UTC)
Re: Midway
It's only part of a fairground, a dedicated area for rides, content booths (y'know, 3 throws for a currency unit, if you pick up a duck with a number/hit the tin can off the shelf, you win some cheap something), and that kind of thing.
noncalorsedumor
Oct. 10th, 2011 03:32 am (UTC)
Re: Midway
I think I recall a passage in Erik Larson's Devil in the White City, about the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago (... and a serial killer), that claimed that the term "Midway" was coined by the fair's organizers/designers. If you haven't read the book, I recommend it.

Personally, I've never heard anyone say "Midway ride," but I would've known what it meant.