Today, let’s dissect the meaning of the idiom “nitty-gritty”, usually preceded by the phrasal verb “get down to”. “Nitty-gritty”, I just love the sound of it, don’t you?
The origin of the term is unknown, a few theories are circulating online but none of which has ever been proven so let’s skip to the definition.
Commonly used in informal speech since the 1960s, the meaning is “to look at the most important aspects or practical details of a subject or situation. “In French, “let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of the problem” would be something like: “venons-en au coeur du problème”, “allons au vif du sujet”. For example, the person training you on your first day at work could say: “Now that you’ve met the team (=your colleagues), let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of the job”, which means that person will walk you through* the most important things you need to know to do your new job. It is not a very common word but it does sound nice in a phrase and like something a native speaker could say.
“Nits” ce sont les poux. Nitty-gritty is a British brand making lotions and combs to remove nits. Witty! (Amusant/plein d’esprit!)
* to walk someone through something is a phrasal verb meaning to explain a process step by step to someone.