August 6, 2004
I was staring at the nails on the empty wall when it struck me that this must be how the expression "getting down to brass tacks" originated. But alas no: According to the "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson:
There are no brass tacks, only brass-headed ones, used because they rust less easily. The American expression, which has been traced back only to 1903, though it may have been common before then, has several possible origins. Brass-headed tacks were used in upholstering chairs, especially at the foundations of the chairs, and in taking a chair apart to reupholster it from the bottom up, craftsmen might have said they were getting down to business, to the root of the matter, getting down to the brass tacks. There is no solid evidence for this theory, however, just as there is none for the country-store hypothesis. Merchants in country stores, it's said, hammered brass-headed tacks at intervals into their fabric department counters to indicate lengths of a yard, a half-yard and a quarter-yard. After a customer selected the cloth she wanted, the merchant would say, 'All right, now we'll get down to brass tacks - I'll measure it up for you.' This certainly was a practice in the country stores and a common one at about the same time the expression is first recorded."
Have been listening to: Nina Simone, Tom Waits, Duke Ellington, Ike Turner, Linda Jones & April March.
Am feeling: feverish and vaguely clammy.
Have been dreaming about: Papaya King on 86th street & the grapefruit gelato on 2nd Street & Ave. A.
I want: to meet: Olivia.
I miss: my wife.
I should be: packing instead of blogging.