Posted by Smokey Stover on November 18, 2005
In Reply to: Bold brazen article posted by Victoria S Dennis on November 17, 2005
: : : I was called a "bold brazen article" by catholic school nuns a ton of times in the 1960s. Does anyone know where this came from?
: : Not exactly, but I'll bet they were Irish. The phrase sounds straight out of John Millington Synge.
: I agree with Bob, that sounds 100% Irish. But "brazen" is one of an interesting clutch of words and phrases in english, e.g. "bold as brass", "brazen", "brassy" and "to brazen (something) out" - all metaphors based on the nature and uses of brass. Being shiny and yellow it was used in trinkets and buttons as a cheap substitute for gold, though it has nothing of the beauty and subtlety of real gold; thus anything brassy is cheap and garish. Being rust-proof, shiny and hard it was used for items like harness-buckles instead of iron (liable to rust) or bronze (easily scratched or dented, liable to tarnish); thus someone brazen or bold as brass is able to barge impudently through - to brazen out - situations that would make a more modest and sensitive person flinch, blench or blush. Phrases with a similar meaning are "brass-faced" and "brazen-faced". The idea here is that just as brass does not tarnish or rust, "brass-faced" people don't blush. (VSD)
And then there's the meaning of article. I think the OED tells us too much: "b. Applied to a person: often derog. Formerly, in the U.S., used of a slave considered as an 'article' of merchandise. slang.
1811 Lexicon Balatronicum. Article, a wench. A prime article. A handsome girl. She's a prime article (Whip slang), she's a devilish good piece, a hell of a goer. 1837 H. MARTINEAU Society II. 325 The creditors..answered that these young ladies [his 'quadroon' nieces] were 'a first-rate article'. 1844 DICKENS Mart. Chuz. xxvi. 320 You're a nice article, to turn sulky on first coming home!" Surprised to hear a girl described as a "good piece" in 1811? I was. But to get back to Catholic school. I've often heard, long ago, phrases like "He's quite the article." Or "She's an article, all right." Not so much any more. Not to be confused with "It's the real article," which is quite different. SS