Dressed to the Nines?

Hey, gang.

Welcome back to the Winter Solstice 2022 adventure!

As I mentioned over the weekend, today is our first day of what has now become a single-digit-day countdown. So hang in there, people.

Or better yet, in the words of the McCoys, “Hang on, Sloopy.” (Yeah, for fun, just replace “Sloopy” with your own first name! Hey don’t knock it. That tune is the official rock song of the state of Ohio and is the signature song of the Ohio State University marching band. ?)

OK, now that we’ve gotten today’s non-sequitur out of the way, let’s get back to the countdown, shall we?

So, Countdown Day 9…

Here’s a question? Ever wonder why the expression for looking your best/dressing smartly is referred to as “dressing to the nines?” (I ‘gotta admit that I was getting tired of not really knowing what it means, so I poked around a bit.)

According to some word hounds (more formally called etymologists), the number nine (9) is incorporated in a few different commonly used phrases, the origins of which are anything but well-documented. (Yeah, for example, there’s on cloud nine, the whole nine yards and
nine days wonder. Sure, we know what those expressions mean, but when it comes to the roots of those specific meanings, we’re pretty much S.O.L.)

Gary Martin (author of The Phrase Finder, 1995), has a few theories on how today’s countdown number can often baffle us:

1. LIVING IN A MATERIAL WORLD – Apparently, back in the day, tailors used nine yards of material to make suits (or in some cases even used that much to create a very ornate shirt). As Martin contends, the more material your clothing had, the more notice and praise you received. (Yeah, check out our man, Beau Brummel, pictured above. He was best known as the top cat of all fashion, going back to late 18th-century England. You’ve probably heard his name in the lyrics of several songs over the years, including “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile” and “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me.”)

2. FOR THE SMARTLY DRESSED SOLDIER? – Martin also suggests that the term might come from an early 19th-century British infantry regiment, the 99th Lanarkshire of Foot. (“Of Foot” is meant to indicate that the 99th was an infantry unit, made up of foot soldiers/ground troops.) But other than the fact that the number of the regiment included two “9s,” and the military unit was formed in the same century during which the phrase “dressed to the nines” was widely used, Martin himself thinks making that comparison is decidedly a stretch.

3. POT LUCK?? – Other theories involving “9” include reference to the Nine Worthies, characters drawn from history who were known for both their noble and heroic qualities. (We’re talking stalwarts like Julius Caesar, King Arthur and Alexander the Great.) Additionally, Greek mythology includes the Nine Muses of Arts and Learning, featuring characters like Clio, Erato and Melpomene. And one more thought: A late 17th-century poet named John Rawlett made a reference to the nine muses “…Both the Philosopher and Divine, and Poets most who still make their address in private to the Nine…” in his Poetick Miscellenies of Mr. John Rawlett.

So, after all that, it seems like the term “nines” may not refer to anything specific. Maybe it simply means “a lot” of something.

Sorry I couldn’t come up with anything more definitive, but at least we dug around a little.

OK, my friend, have a great rest of the night. (And start thinking “8.”) ?










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