Is an American coinage, and indeed it first surfaced in print in Texas. As we will see, some other evidence also points in the direction of the United States.
We hardly ever speak about brass tacks, so why did they achieve such prominence? Who and in what industries gets down to them? Some hypotheses are rather ingenious, but below I’ll mention only two of them. The others are “a click away,” as they now say. Unless an idiom happens to be a so-called familiar quotation, its origin is usually unknown. (The origin of familiar quotations is another problem.) Somebody whips the cat, takes care of the whole nine yards, is dressed up to the nines, or, conversely, kicks the bucket. Trying to guess how those phrases came about is a worthy occupation, but, unfortunately, it seldom results in significant discoveries. Suffice it to say that every idiom, like every word, was once coined by an individual. The cleverest and the most memorable words and phrases stayed, and now they are common property, while the inventors’ names are forgotten. My contribution today will be modest. In 1931, there was a lively discussion of the brass