get down to brass tacks
Unknown. Earliest attestation in 1863 US, specifically Texas. 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). Another possibility is the 19th century American practice of using brass tacks to spell out the initials of the deceased on the top of their coffin.
|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?
- "Brass tacks" in Michael Quinion, Ballyhoo, Buckaroo, and Spuds, 2004.