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The expression has been extended somewhat to include less drastic means of subdual.Simon Legree A cruel, heartless taskmaster; an employer, foreman, or overseer.The allusion is to the threatening crack of a whip used to keep horses and slaves moving or in by the short hairs To have complete mastery or control over, to have someone right where you want him.The British equivalent of this expression, to have by the short and curlies, makes this rather obvious reference to pubic hair more explicit.Dating from about 1600, this term refers to the brows of the beater and not the beaten, as is commonly supposed today.However, it is unclear whether to beat in the expression means to beat figuratively with one’s brows or ‘to lower’ one’s brows at, i.e., to frown at.crack the whip To command or control; to run a tight ship; to be strict with.Simon Legree was the villainous slave dealer in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin.Nowadays, the expression is often applied somewhat humorously to any in tow See the pants To be the dominant member; to be in control.
The noun nitty-gritty dates from the mid-1900s and alludes to the detailed ("nitty") and possibly unpleasant ("gritty") issue in question.Use of the phrase dates from the latter half of the 19th by the tail To be in control, to be in the driver’s seat; to be certain of success.Tail in this phrase refers to the buttocks and backside. Long-street’s The Pedlocks (1951):have one’s foot on [someone’s] neck To be in a superior, dominating position; to have someone at one’s mercy; to have complete control over another person.(Isaiah )The Moor is of a free and open nature That thinks men honest that but seem to be so, And will as tenderly be led by the nose As asses are.(Shakespeare, Othello, I, iii)make [someone’s] beard To have a person totally under one’s control or at one’s mercy.This obsolete expression, dating from the 14th century, derives from the fact that a barber who is making (i.e., dressing) a man’s beard has complete control over him.
Some are variations on a theme, others seem unrelated.