two expressions began rattling around in my head…
get down to the brass tacks
cut to the chase
their very foundations, the two offerings are quite similar. A
bit of a plea to strip away the clutter and extra stuff, then
begin looking at things from most essential and basic ideas. But
are the current meanings—and, for these, fairly standard and long-lasting
meanings—a true reflection of the origins?
down to the brass tacks indicates a move toward the facts. No
nonsense. It alludes to the essential ideas in a discussion, the
phrase is attributed to American history, with most traces going
back roughly one-hundred-fifty years. Actually, not too long and
quite likely more recent than you would expect. It focuses on
the sale of items in lengths, usually cloth. On counters would
be a way to measure, usually two tacks mounted a specific distance
apart (perhaps a yard).
a tool to measure a specific length. Not allowing different people
to warp details with personal influences (such as measuring a
length of cloth by the inconsistent length of an arm). That, in
several ways, works with our current cutting out the garbage and
focusing on the specifics idea.
are also people that look to the decorative uses of brass tacks,
such as on furniture and even to mark coffins. In such cases,
we need a bit of a twist, but it still comes close to the same
end… this time talking about finishing touches and designs, which
means getting down to what everyone sees.
we cut to the chase, we’re getting to the point. Stop the dancing
around and focus on the issue. You might not figure out the source
on this one.
places attribute the idea to movies. Yup. Movies. The idea being
that for most people, they want to see the exciting stuff. You
know the chase scenes in a movie? Filled with fun and thrills.
Yeah… that’s it. Don’t risk losing the audience with dull speeches,
cut to the chase scene.
fact, one source specifically cites the 1929 work Hollywood
Girl (J.P. McEvoy’s book served as the source for the film
Show Girl in Hollywood), which includes the directions:
“Cut to chase.” (While that isn’t considered the definitive source,
and efforts are made to go back further in time to actual stage
productions cutting from scene to scene, the main point is the
connection to film and more specifically productions directions.
Stop the nonsense… cut to the main event.)
phrases eliminate the extra stuff… the silliness… the tangents…
the inconsistent and, if you will, gossip.
probably could go on. Do a bit more research. Tell some additional
stories. But, well, you know… brass tacks… cut to the chase…