get down to brass tacks

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

Unknown.[1] Earliest attestation in 1863 US, specifically Texas.[1] A theory is that it comes from the brass tacks in the counter of a hardware store or draper’s shop used to measure cloth in precise units (rather than holding one end to the nose and stretching out the arm to approximately one yard).

Verb[edit]

get down to brass tacks

  1. (idiomatic) Deal with the important details.

Synonyms[edit]

Translations[edit]

Quotations[edit]

1863 1935 1972 1994
ME « 15th c. 16th c. 17th c. 18th c. 19th c. 20th c. 21st c.
  • 1863, January 21, 1863, The Tri-Weekly Telegraph, newspaper of Houston, Texas
    When you come down to brass tacks – if we may be allowed the expression – everybody is governed by selfishness.
  • 1935, Clifford Odets, Waiting for Lefty
    That's no answer. Get down to brass tacks.
  • 1972, Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream
    Let's get down to brass tacks here. How much for the ape?
  • 1994, Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avary, Pulp Fiction
    You must be Jules, which would make you Vincent. Let’s get down to brass tacks, gentlemen. If I was informed correctly, the clock is ticking. Is that right, Jimmie?

References[edit]

  1. 1.0 1.1 brass tacks”, Wordorigins.org, Dave Wilton, Monday, May 26, 2008.