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[翻译字幕]Words and Their Stories - Let's Get Down to Brass Tacks!

Now, the VOA Special English program Words and Their Stories.

Our expression today is “getting down to brass tacks.” It means to get serious about something, to get to the bottom of the situation. 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 marry me?” She, too, is getting down to brass tacks.

我们今天的习语是“getting down to brass tacks”,它的意思是严肃对待某事,直达问题根本。比如,一个人可能会说,“我希望给你打工,但你会付我多少工资?”他就是在切入正题。或一位女士可能会问,“你说你爱我,那你愿意娶我吗?”她也是在切入正题。

How did this expression get started?

这个习语是怎么来的?

There are several ideas...

目前有几种观点。

At one time most women made their own clothes, buying the cloth in small stores. The material was kept in large rolls. And the storekeeper cut off as much as a woman wanted. Brass tacks along his work table helped him measure the exact amount.

曾经有一段时间,大多数妇女都是在小店里买布,然后自己缝衣服。布料是卷起来摆放的,妇女想要多少布就让店主裁多少。店主工作台边缘的一排铜钉帮他进行精确测量。

Sometimes a busy storekeeper might try to guess how much material to cut off. But this would not be correct. He could get an exact measure only by laying the material down along the brass tacks.

繁忙的店主有时也许会尝试猜测要裁多少布料,但这是不准确的。他只有将布料摆在铜钉上测量才会准。

One word expert, however, has another theory. He believes the expression came from seamen who cleaned the bottoms of boats. Strong heavy devices called bolts held the ship’s bottom together. These bolts were made of copper. The seaman had to clean the ship down to the copper bolts. American speech soon changed the words copper bolts into brass tacks.

然而,有个词汇学家另有看法。他认为这个习语来自负责清洗船底的海员。有种叫做螺栓的重而结实的设备用于固定船底。这些螺栓是铜制的。这些船员必须向下清洗到铜螺栓才算完。美国方言后来把铜螺栓变成了铜钉。

Another idea is that the expression began when furniture was made by hand. Brass tacks were used around the bottom part of the chair. The brass tacks showed that the chair was built to be strong. When something went wrong with the chair, someone quickly examined the bottom to discover the trouble. In other words, someone got down to the brass tacks.

另一个说法是,这个习语始于手工制作家具时代。铜钉被钉在椅子底部四周,以彰显椅子结实耐用。当椅子有问题的时候,人们就会马上检查底部以发现问题。换句话说,他们在找出问题的关键。

No one is sure where the expression first was used, but everyone is sure what it means today. It is used by people who dislike empty words. They seek quick, direct answers. They want to get to the bottom of a situation. There are others, however, who have no such desire. They feel there is some risk in trying to get down to brass tacks.

没人知道这个习语第一次使用是在什么时候,但今天每个人都知道它的意思。那些不喜欢说空话的人会用这个习语。他们寻求快速、直接的答案。他们希望开门见山。然而,也有不抱这种想法的人,他们觉得开门见山的方式存在风险。

This happened in the case of a critic who made the mistake of reading a play written by a close friend. The critic disliked the play a lot. He felt his friend should not be writing plays. But he said nothing. This silence troubled the writer. He demanded that his friend the critic say something about the play. The writer finally heard the critic’s opinion. And this “getting down to brass tacks” ended a long friendship.

有位评论家,他在读好友所创的剧本时,就犯下了这样的错误。评论家很不喜欢朋友的剧本,他觉得朋友不该写剧本。但他什么都没说。他的沉默使作家感到不安,作家要求评论家朋友说说剧本怎么样。作家最终听到了评论家的意见。他的开门见山让一段长久的友谊宣告结束。

This VOA Special English program Words and Their Stories was written by Mike Pitts.

I’m Warren Scheer.