Monday, June 04, 2012

Dressed to the nines

We use this phrase to denote someone who is elegantly dressed. It generally indicates wearing clothing of fine quality or can refer to someone who is just dressed smartly.

99th Regiment of Foot
It appears that the ‘to the nines’ part of the phrase is in reference to scale. Since one cannot obtain absolute perfection, nine appears to be the best. As well, nine is the highest single digit and perhaps this is why it symbolizes perfection. The origin of this phrase is difficult, as are many phrases that involve the word nine. Some claim that it refers to tailors who would use nine yards of material to make a suit. Others say it refers to the 99th Regiment of Foot for their sharply dressed uniforms. However, the term predates these examples.

One of the first written accounts of ‘to the nines’ comes from William Hamilton's Epistle to Ramsay, 1719:

The bonny Lines therein thou sent me,
How to the nines they did content me.

It appears that the term began in the 1700s, but no one knows the origin of this phrase. All I know is that if you have something important to attend, just make sure you are dressed to the nines.

Thank you Alexandra for suggesting this phrase.

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