A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from September 19, 2009
Lick-log ("down to the lick-log” or “up to the lick-log")

Entry in progress—B.P.

The Phrase Finder
Re: Up to the licklog
Posted by Baceseras on February 27, 2008 at 18:48:
(...)
A licklog is a salt-lick, especially one framed in a log or felled tree. Herders set up licks for the convenience of cattle or horses (the animals need salt in their diet). The phrase you cited appears to be a fragment and misconstruction of “stand up to [one’s] licklog”, which means to stand firm. In pioneer times grazing land was unfenced and used by many herds in common; a herdsman occasionally needed determination to keep his cattle at the lick when a neighboring herdsman was impatient to have the use of it.

About North Georgia
Down to the Licklog
(...)
The phrase “down to the licklog” relates to the second to last thing cattle did before they died. It was an old rancher trick to take them to the salt lick and then to water to increase the weight before slaughter.

It is currently archaic, however, it does mean, roughly, down to the last second.

From a reader:
Concerning you Q/A about the term “licklog”, I have heard several older lawyers use this term in referring to having exhausted all settlement efforts, discovery (the methods lawyers use to find out what the other side’s case is about)and other “things” lawyers do before they are ready for trial, leaving only trial/settlement/dismissal/some other ‘final’ resolution/end to the case. Everything has been done that could/should be done to resolve the matter, now it is time to resolve it. You need to either “spit or swaller”, a tabacky term for when your mouth is full.

Historical Dictionary of American Slang
lick log n. [fr. S.E. sense ‘a salt lick for cattle’; though this use is not attested until 1851, this is presumably due to a gap in the evidence]
1. a gathering place; point of contention or decision; in phr. stand to (one’s lick-log, salt or no salt to stand firm; act decisively; come to the lick-log to face facts; make a difficult decision; down to the lick-log down to business. [The above definition is paraphrased from DARE, from which most of this entry is taken; see DARE for additional evidence.]
1834 Crockett Narrative, in DARE: I was sure I would do a good business among them At any rate, I was determined to stand up to my lick-log, salt or no salt.
1840 [Haliburton] Clockmaker (Ser. 3) 175: I like a man to be up to the notch, and stand to his lick-log; salt or no salt, say the word, or it’s no offer.
1989 in DARE: When I got back to the old family lick log I found things powerful changed around.
1942 in To bring him to taw: to make him “come up to the lick log.”
1975 in DARE: The term “lick-log” was sometimes applied to preaching places.
1982 in DARE: One of the men said, “we are at the lick log” (meaning we must now decide.).
1992 in DARE: Texas Gov. Ann Richards...said Democrats were encouraged that Clinton had proved to be a fighter on the campaign trail. “When it really gets down to the licklog, we’re going to have somebody in the Democratic Party who’s going to get in there and slug it out with them.”
1992 Launer My Cousin Vinny (film): Let’s get down to the lick log.
2. a drinking saloon. Joc.
1867 G.W. Harris Lovingood 188: Wirt had changed his grocery range, an’ the sperrits at the new lick-log had more scrimmage seed an’ raise-devil into hit than the old biled drink he wer used to.

(Oxford English Dictionary)
lick-log, a block of salt for cattle to lick
1834 D. CROCKETT Narr. Life 170, I was determined to stand up to my *lick-log, salt or no salt.
1840 HALIBURTON Clockm. Ser. III. xii, I like a man to be up to the notch, and stand to his lick-log.
1852 G. W. L. BICKLEY Hist. Tazewell County 226 Capt. Moore..was at a lick log..salting his horses of which he had many.
1948 E. N. DICK Dixie Frontier 105 Small troughs were cut in the trunk of a fallen tree and occasionally salt was placed there, making what was known as a ‘lick log’.

6 September 1820, Miller’s Weekly Messenger (SC), pg. 2:
TREASURY OFFICE,
Columbia, August 15, 1820.
The tract of Land disignated No. 1, on Chatuga River, at the mouth of Lick-Log Creek, in the territory lately purchased by this State from the Cherokee Indians, containing one hundred acres,...

Google Books
The clockmaker, or, The sayings and doings of Sam Slick, of Slickville; to which is added, The bubbles of Canada
By Thomas Chandler Haliburton
Paris: Baudry’s European Library
1839
Pg. 113:
No, said he, I like a man to be up to the notch, and stand to his lick-log; salt or no salt, say the word, or it’s no offer.

Google Books
Texas: a world in itself
By George Sessions Perry
New York, NY: Whittlesey House, McGraw-Hill Book Company
1942
Pg. 135:
To bring him to taw: to make him “come up to the lick log.”

Google Books
Giant
By Edna Ferber
Garden City, NY: Doubleday
1952
Pg. 210:
“If he put his mind to it he could make the whole passel come up to the lick log.”

Google Books
Observations & reflections on Texas folklore
By Francis Edward Abernethy
Austin, TX: Encino Press
1972
Pg. 130:
Under the title of “The Knights of the Yellow Rose,” they have assumed the portentous task of leading Old Man Texas up to the lick log.

Google Books
How the Bush Administration Subverts the Law for Conservative Causes
By Charles Tiefer
University of California Press
2006
Pg. 279:
Thank goodness Abdullah will have a new back channel to cut out Colin Powell and George Tenet (to say nothing of the congressional Democrats, who could never hope to get the time of day out of him) when the oil deals get down to the lick-log, as they say in Houston—and Riyadh.

Boston (MA) Globe
The Word
By Jan Freeman
July 20, 2008
(...)
SALTY LANGUAGE: “Have you ever heard of the phrase “down to the lick log?” asked James Maiewski recently, supplying a quote from a San Francisco judge: “We are about down to the lick log here.”

I hadn’t heard it, but Ann Richards, when she was governor of Texas, told questioners it was local lingo for “the nitty-gritty,” or “down to brass tacks.”

As for the lick log itself, it’s a salt lick - a block of salt provided for livestock, “especially one framed in a log or felled tree,” according to one source. I haven’t figured out the connection between the salt and the metaphorical nitty-gritty, though. It could be that salt is essential, or that the salt is almost gone, and you’re “down to” the bare wood, but those are just guesses.

Tampa Bay (FL) Online
Fuel cost charges simply don’t add up
Hernando Today
Published: September 10, 2009
Editor’s note: The following is an open letter to Billy E. Brown, general manager of Withlacoochee Regional Electric Cooperative, and is published here at the author’s request.
(...)
There’s an old saying in east Texas (spent 30 years there) called “coming to the lick log” — it’s where the spin stops, the masks are removed and the sunlight exposes the truth.

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • Saturday, September 19, 2009 • Permalink