Posted by Elyse Bruce on October 21, 2013
If you aren’t building anything that requires a hammer but someone tells you that you’ve nailed it, what they mean is that you’ve succeeded in doing something well. You hear it said most often when discussing political matters, but it really can be said about any situation that’s done well.
When “Post On Politics” — a blog from the Palm Beach Post — discussed the Florida primaries on August 25, 2010, they talked about the results of the major GOP Governor primary polls as well as the Senate primary polls. The article was entitled, “Pollsterpalooza: Who Nailed It, Who Didn’t, In Pre-Primary Surveys.”
The Deseret News of July 20, 1987 published a story entitled, “Slow And Steady Falso Wins British Open” written by journalist Scott Ostler of the Los Angeles Times. The writer spoke of a golf tournament in Muirfield, Scotland that finished with dashing, flashing and hard-charging at the 116th British Open. And he wrote of the old hare-and-tortoise theme being one of no hares, three tortoises and a slow Walrus. In all, however, someone was going to emerge victorious and in this case it was Nick Faldo of Great Britain.
Faldo, in the twosome ahead of Azinger, needed to sink a five-foot putt so save par on 18, and calmly nailed it.
On August 29, 1965 the Miami News carried a story out of Philadelphia about the Los Angeles Dodgers beating the Philadelphia Phillies in a National League game the night before. It was quite the series that year, and new stories bear that fact out. In this article, this was reported:
Before the Dodgers nailed it, however, Manager Walt Alston called on 21-game winner Sandy Koufax in the ninth inning to get the final three outs. It was Koufax’s first relief appearance of the season.
It wasn’t just men who could nail it. The Lawrence Journal World newspaper of May 13, 1959 shared a news bite by Robert C. Ruark in an article entitled, “Wayne Made Error On Clare” that made use of the idiom when speaking about ex-Ambassador Luce’s wife, Clare.
Our gal Clare is the undisputed mistress of our times of the delicate art of cutting folks into shreds. Mr. Morse’s hid is not the first she has tacked to the barn, and possibly will not be the last. This time she nailed it by severe lady-like refusal of the post to Brazil, playing the part of dutiful wife beautifully.
The Vancouver Sun of September 25, 1931 published a news story entitled, “Labor Stands On Own Feet.” The story was about the morning’s session of the Trades and Labor Congress of Canada and the reaffirmation of its stand in favor of independent political action. The story included this information:
After bouncing over the fence once of twice it was thrown back to home plate, where “Paddy” Draper veteran of 31 years as secretary-treasurer of the Congress, nailed it in a fighting speech. There was a misunderstanding among the delegates without any ground for it, he asserted. Moving non-concurrence in these resolutions might result in giving the impression that the Congress was opposed to independent political action whereas this was the farthest thing away from this Congress.
Going back to Philadelphia, this time to the December 2, 1894 edition of the Philadelphia Record in the news article, “Yale Defeats Princeton.” The final score was 24-0 in front of 20,000 spectators. According to the newspaper, it was the worst thrashing ever administered to the Jerseymen except for the thrashing they got in 1890 when they were beaten by the Blues at Eastern Park by a score of 32-0. Furthermore, the newspaper announced that Princeton was outclassed at every point while Yale showed unexpected strength. The story shared game highlights including the following one:
Barnard received instructions to kick the ball out of danger, but his attempt was so poor that the oval only advanced five yards, and was saved for Princeton by Trenchard, who nailed it in great style. Another punt by Barnard was more successful, for Butterworth was forced outside Princeton’s 40-yard line by Holly. Yale then began a series of short rushes, and the Tigers were forced to retreat toward their goal line.
Despite efforts to find an earlier published date for the expression than the one from the Philadelphia Record, none were found. That being said, that the expression nailed it was used so easily in this newspaper story indicates that it was an accepted expression during that era and as such, it most likely dates back to the generation before, putting it at about 1875.