Making one's nut

Discuss word origins and meanings.
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Making one's nut

Post by Shelley » Fri Feb 15, 2019 8:13 pm

First off, my search for a previous discussion of this yielded nothing. The search entity explained, very nicely, that it was ignoring the word "nut" because it was too common and too short. I'm short, common, and sometimes a nut but I don't think that's any reason to be ignored.

So. One's "nut" is the combined monthly expenses one must pay out in order to maintain a living. As basic as possible -- rent/mortgage, transportation, food, insurance, etc. -- whatever applies. "Making one's nut", then, is earning the minimum monthly income to cover all of one's non-discretionary expenses. Variations on the theme include things like, "did you make your nut this month?", and "what's your nut?", etc.

So. I just finished reading a memoir of an actor who explains the origin of the phrase "making one's nut" as follows: (not a quote -- I am paraphrasing -- the actor is William Shatner, and you can stop judging me right now!)

Seems it originated back in the day (American West) when traveling theater troupes (i.e., wagon caravans) would roll into town, and set up for a week or so. Because these "vagabonds" became notorious for failing to pay their bills before packing up and disappearing into the night, the local law authority removed the lug-nut from a wagon wheel upon their arrival. After all the players' bills were paid at the end of their run, the lug-nut was returned, the wheel was made safe again, and the troupe went on its merry way. The wagon wheel lug-nut became the "nut", the amount of which everyone is toiling to make.

So. This all rang of folk (or faux) etymology to me, but I thought it made a good story. After exploring a little bit, I found that this origin is pretty common and attributed to Jonathan Green in Cassel's Dictionary on The Phrase Finder. Two things bother me:

1) "LUG" nut -- other references just call it a nut, without the lug. Maybe Shatner was going, boldly, from nut to lug nut. Is the term "lug nut" contemporary with wagon wheels?
2) the picture linked above calls the "nut" a HUB (obviously the source of the term "hubcap". So, what is it -- a nut or a hub? Unless, maybe, the photographer is simply referring to the hub of the wheel.

One more thing about the picture: if there is some copyright attached, will my use of the picture incur some cost to Wordwizard? Or will the link just disappear in a couple of days? How do we avoid using photos that are problematic in that way?

That's all for now, folks.
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Re: Making one's nut

Post by tony h » Sat Feb 16, 2019 12:19 am

An interesting expression that I hadn't heard before.

Where I come from the nut would be an axle-nut. The hub is the bit that slides onto the axle and rotates.

Lugs and lug-nuts only appear on powered or braked wheels (not on rim-braked which is the traditional brake) and these are on cars and some modern carriages.

So if you change a car wheel you undo the wheel-nuts which are in many places called lug-nuts because they are on the threaded lugs in the hub.

I suspect Mr Shatner was unaware, or didn't really think it through, that the nut being removed from a carriage is on the axle end and is a retaining nut, rather than on the hub fixed with lug-nuts.
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Re: Making one's nut

Post by Erik_Kowal » Sat Feb 16, 2019 12:30 am

In my perception, "making one's nut" is an expression that has not made it across the Atlantic to Britain — at least, it is a novel expression to me, and I consider myself to be reasonably well-acquainted with British idioms.

I see an obvious problem with the wagon wheel nut theory, which is that it would be very easy to substitute a replacement nut for one that was being held hostage by the local authorities. Another is that without a nut to hold the wheel onto the wagon, it would be very easy for it to come away from the wagon, causing the latter to partially or entirely overturn. This could happen even when it was nominally stationary if it was subjected to being jolted, e.g. when being loaded or unloaded. So while I don't totally discount this theory, it doesn't seem very plausible to me.

Wikipedia defines a lug nut as "a nut with one rounded or conical (tapered) end, used on steel and most aluminum wheels". I don't see why the expression would specifically have to relate to a lug nut, especially as many wagons were constructed with wooden hubs rather than steel ones. (This would be particularly likely to be the case in America's frontier regions, where iron and steel was likely to be either harder to come by and/or much more expensive than wood, or where the extra weight of iron hubs could not be justified for the type of application the cart or wagon was being used for.)

The photo you included in your posting, Shelley, depicts a hub (the part of the wheel from which the spokes radiate) secured to the axle by a nut. (Incidentally, that doesn't look like a lug nut to me.)
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The software underpinning this forum doesn't permit the local storage of images. All images that appear to be embedded in the postings still reside on the websites on which they were found, and are thus as permanent (or as impermanent) here as the images on the third-party pages that contain them.

It is my understanding that this makes it harder for a copyright holder to claim that forums with this architecture are in breach of copyright, because they are merely providing a porthole (as it were) for viewing an image that is hosted elsewhere rather than having been copied and separately embedded in the forum's own code. (Note that this is my layman's opinion, not a definitive statement of the legal position.)

Many jurisdictions also provide a 'fair use' defence against claims of copyright infringement, especially when the material in question has been copied for non-commercial purposes or in connection with a person's studies.

If possible, however, the best thing would be to use images that have been explicitly placed in the public domain (or where the copyright period has expired).
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Re: Making one's nut

Post by Phil White » Sun Feb 17, 2019 7:02 pm

Shelley wrote:
Fri Feb 15, 2019 8:13 pm
First off, my search for a previous discussion of this yielded nothing. The search entity explained, very nicely, that it was ignoring the word "nut" because it was too common and too short. I'm short, common, and sometimes a nut but I don't think that's any reason to be ignored.
The search index only covers words of 4 characters or longer. There is nothing I can do to change this without slowing the system down considerably.

If you really want to search for a specific phrase, you may do better to go through the Google search engine. Something like this (complete with quotes" would do the trick:

"make one's nut" site:wordwizard.com

But that doesn't return anything.

"one's nut" site:wordwizard.com
also yields nothing useful.

In fact, Ken did some work on "cover your nut" here:
viewtopic.php?t=23718
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Re: Making one's nut

Post by tony h » Wed Mar 13, 2019 9:37 pm

Erik_Kowal wrote:
Sat Feb 16, 2019 12:30 am
II see an obvious problem with the wagon wheel nut theory, which is that
it would be very easy to substitute a replacement nut for one that was being held hostage by the local authorities.
Another is that without a nut to hold the wheel onto the wagon, it would be very easy for it to come away from the wagon, causing the latter to partially or entirely overturn. This could happen even when it was nominally stationary if it was subjected to being jolted, e.g. when being loaded or unloaded.
So while I don't totally discount this theory, it doesn't seem very plausible to me.
A recent visit to an industrial museum reminded me of this and I thought you might appreciate a little bit more background. Finding a picture on the internet, which would be as informative as the one's I have on my camera, proved tricky.

As you can see the nut on the attached photograph is not a standard item. On the one I looked at the right hand wheels had reverse-thread nuts so that the nuts would tend to tighten if much got in between the nut and hub. The practice of machining threads to a standard did not come about until the mid-C19th. And even into the C20th such specialised items were likely to be down to the individual carriage builder although with a BSW thread. Incidentally before nuts the wheels were held on by a pin.


If you look at the width of the hub you will see the wheel would be in no danger of falling off when stationary. Even on a slim wheeled Bennington there is no danger of it falling over with the wheel just placed in position. While moving at normal speeds a loose wheel would be noticeable to an experienced driver.


Image

PS hoping to visit the History of Science museum in Oxford again next week.
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Re: Making one's nut

Post by Shelley » Fri Mar 15, 2019 9:21 pm

Thanks to all for the additional information, from how to perform a more effective word search (thanks for the link, Phil, and don't change a thing!), to the general (legal) ramifications of linking to illustrative photographs (Erik, a great load off my conscience), to the finer points of wagon wheel theory (tony h -- reverse-thread nuts -- who knew?!).
Cheers, folks.
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