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Can't make the nut

Posted by Baceseras on March 30, 2009 at 16:23

In Reply to: Can't make the nut posted by Smokey Stover on March 30, 2009 at 13:34:

: : What is the origin: 'Can't make the nut'?

: You're talking about "nut" in a financial sense, I imagine. "The nut," which you can or cannot make is a financial minimum, or goal, or quota, but I can't give any details, as I can't find the definition on the Web. I was looking under "make the nut" and "make your nut," and almost all that I got were ways to make nut butter and the like, along with a few sites that promised "I'll make your nuts ache," which evidently is a come-on for masochists.

: Is someone here familiar with business jargon?
: SS

I first heard this use of 'nut' in the 1970s, in the complaints of the manager of a struggling movie house, speaking of various ways he "couldn't make his nut". I thought then it was the latest slang; but now that I've looked in the Oxford English Dictionary I must revise my opinion. There an "obsolete" meaning of 'nut' is given: "Use, advantage, profit". Do you ask, How obsolete? Well, according to OED its first instance can be found in Boethius (sixth century AD), and its last in Lazamon's 'Brut' (thirteenth century) - after which it is never seen again.

But wait, under figurative uses of the noun 'nut' (in the first place, a hard, edible kernel; in the second, anything of trifling value) we come to the U.S. slang recorded since the earliest years of the twentieth century, meaning: "The amount of money required for a venture; set-up or overhead costs. Originally in 'on the nut', out of pocket."

Here is the very first citation, from Confessions of a Con-Man, as told to Will Irwin : "First, they took out the 'nut'. That is the general term, among gamblers for the expense account."

- Bac.