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Now, the VOA Special English program WORDS AND THEIR STORIES.
Our (1) today is "getting down to brass (2)." It means to get serious about something, to get to the (3) of the (4). For example, a man may say, " I want to work for you. But how much will you pay me?" He is getting down to brass tacks. Or a woman may ask, "You say you love me. Will you (5) me?" She, too, is getting down to brass tacks.
How did this expression get (6)? There are several (7).
At one time most women made their own (8), buying the cloth in small (9). The (10) was kept in large (11). And the (12) cut off as much as a woman wanted. Brass tacks along his work table (13) him measure the (14) amount.
(15) a busy storekeeper might try to guess how much material to cut off. But this would not be (16). He could get an exact measure only by laying the material down along the brass tacks.
One word expert, however, has another (17). He believes the expression came from (18) who cleaned the (19) of boats. Strong heavy (20) called bolts held the ship's bottom together. These (21) were made of copper. The seaman had to clean the ship down to the copper bolts. American speech soon (22) the words copper bolts into brass tacks.
Another idea is that the expression began when (23) was made by hand. Brass tacks were used around the bottom part of the (24). The brass tacks, showed that the chair was built to be strong. When something went wrong with the chair, someone quickly (25) the bottom to discover the (26). In other words, someone got down to the brass tacks.
No one is sure where the expression first was (27), but everyone is sure what it (28) today.
It is used by people who dislike empty (29). They seek quick, direct (30). They want to get to the bottom of a situation. There are (31),however, who have no such (32). They feel there is some (33) in trying to get down to brass tacks.
This (34) in the case of a critic who made the mistake of reading a play written by a close friend. The critic (35) the play a lot. He felt his friend should not be writing plays. But he said nothing. This silence (36) the writer. He (37) that his friend the (38) say something about the play. The writer finally (39) the critic's opinion. And this getting down to brass tacks ended a long (40).
(MUSIC)
This VOA Special English program, WORDS AND THEIR STORIES, was written by Mike Pitts. I'm Warren Scheer.


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