Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Every series starts somewhere.....

Every (insert number here)(insert period measurement here) I plan to look back at an apocryphal phrase from times past. Or something like that. This week, the phrase is: "Dressed to the Nines." My partner, Shawn Rhodes, and I began to ponder the history of this odd phrase one day over a bottle of ginger ale. Of course, being the learnED and sophisticated people that we are, nary a day goes by in which we don't utter this phrase. Usually complimenting each other for achieving it, and mocking those who only dress to the 8's or, Lord in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name, forbid, the 7's. I entrusted Shawn to research the phrase, and after long hours in the library pouring over books and shorter hours in the kitchen pouring Mountain Dew, he presented me the following explanation, which I hereby declare as 100.25% accurate. The Wikipedia entry will be updated accordingly. (As soon as I figure out how to create pages instead of just editing them.)

"Dressed to the Nines" can be traced to the grids that a hangman/executioner places on a convicted person to determine where on the neck to hit them with his expertly sharpened axe. "Nine" was near to the base of the skull, where the cerebral cortex connects to the spine, and signifies a high collar which only the wealthiest of citizens could afford. Ironically the same chart was used by the hangman/executioner to determine which part of meat that he took home for his family's supper.

Macaulay, Thomas B. The History of England. p.412, 416, 847-48.