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Posts Tagged ‘1687’

Dressed To The Nines

Posted by Admin on April 7, 2011

When someone is dressed to the nines the world knows he or she is so well-dressed that the person is wearing very fashionable or expensive clothes,  and nothing has been overlooked.  This person is the picture of perfection in every sense of the word.

Many of us learned in elementary school that multiplying any number by nine creates a mirror symmetry among numbers. If any number is multiplied by nine, the resulting digits always add to nine. What’s more, the digital root of any multiple of 9 is also 9.

The Tuscaloosa News ran a news story by journalist Bill Rose entitled, “President’s Wife Makes Gamblers Help” on May 2, 1949 that read in part:

I had prepared several questions on veltpolitik that I wanted to put to her, but for the first ten minutes of the interview, I might as well have been on Sixth Avenue.  Eleanor, as luck and 17 charge accounts would have it, was dressed to the nines, and the tactful Evita complimented her on her dress.

On April 15, 1908 the Melbourne Evening Post reported on what they referred to as a “sensational scene at the Treasury” by the unemployed of Melbourne (Australia) who, led by Mr. P.M. Koonin, tried to force their way into the Premier’s office. The news story read in part:

When he was informed that they had gone he remarked, “I told them that if they did not go they would be arrested.  If they went out it is all right.  While I went out into the passage with the Minister of Lands these men were there dressed up to the nines.  The place seemed to be full.”

Dressed to the nines as it pertains to being dressed is found cited in John C. Hotten’s “A Dictionary of Modern Slang, Cant, and Vulgar Words” published in 1859:

DRESSED UP TO THE NINES:  in a showy ‘recherché’ manner.

Robert Burns wrote “Poem On Pastoral Poetry” in 1791 and spoke thusly about Mother Nature in all her beauty:

Thou paints auld Nature to the nines,
In thy sweet Caledonian lines;
Nae gowden stream thro’ myrtle twines,
Where Philomel,
While nightly breezes sweep the vines,
Her griefs will tell!

In 1719, in William Hamilton’s book, “Epistle to Ramsay” the following is found:

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

In the 1687 book entitled, “The Poetick Miscellenies of Mr. John Rawlett” these lines are found:

The learned tribe whose works the World do bless
Finish those works in some recess;
Both the Philosopher and Divine,
And Poets most who still make their address
In private to the Nine.

The reference to the nines in this instance are the Nine Worthies of Pagan and Jewish history and are comprised of the following historical figures who were perceived as being the personification of all that was noble and heroic:  Hector, Alexander, Julius Caesar , Joshua, David, Judas Maccabaeus, King Arthur, Charlemagne, and Godfrey of Bouillion.

The earliest reference of “to the nines” appears in a translation of Voyages de Jehan de Mandeville chevalier, from France circa 1357.  The expression is attributed to Sir John Mandeville who, in the English translation, is found to make this comment:

Sir king! ye shall have war without peace, and always to the nine degree, ye shall be in subjection of your enemies, and ye shall be needy of all goods.

While the expression may not be about clothing, it certainly addressed being decked out to the utmost.

Posted in Idioms from the 14th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Flash In The Pan

Posted by Admin on February 21, 2011

When someone says that a person, activity or item is a “flash in the pan” what they mean is that while the person, activity or item may draw a lot of attention at the moment, it’s obviously only going to be of interest to others for a very short time.

There are those who will try to sell you on the idea that gold prospecting or early photograph was the origin of ‘flash in the pan’ and in both cases, that is incorrect.

The Deseret News of Salt Lake City (UT) published an article by John Griffin on June 15, 1951 entitled “White Sox Bounce Nats in Twin Bill” which reported:

You can tell a champ in any sport, they say, by the way he gets up after a loss and takes charge again — and that’s just what those young and sassy Chicago White Sox were doing Friday.  A lot of folks, who thought that the classy kids from the Windy City were just a “flash in the pan,” figured that the belting they took in three straight games against the “old pro” New York Yankees would start the Sox on a long slide from first place, down.  But what happened instead?

Almost a century before that on July 25, 1854, in a Special Dispatch to the New York Daily Times, an article was published that read in part:

First we have the COLT investigation, which will turn out an ill-advised flash in the pan, and pass the bill designed to be defeated.  Next we have a positive charge of fraud and corruption made by a scion of DUFF GREEN against Hon. THOMAS H. BAYLY of Virginia which, having been exploded once already, probably  hasn’t enough of saltpetre in it to go off a second time, even in smoke.

In a letter dated July 26, 1789, Manon Roland (nee Marie-Jeanne Phlipon) who was involved in the French Revolution, wrote to her friend, Louis-Augustin-Guillame Bosc:

You are only children, you enthusiasm is a flash in the pan.  If this letter does not reach you, may the cowards who read it blush when they learn it comes from a woman.

Elkanah Settle (January 1, 1648 – February 12, 1724) commented on Mr. Dryden’s plays in 1687 and in “Reflections” she wrote:

If Cannons were so well bred in his Metaphor as only to flash in the Pan, I dare lay an even wager that Mr. Dryden durst venture to Sea.

Idiomation was unable to find an earlier published reference to “flash in the pan” however Idiomation is able to explain how the saying came about.

In the days when flintlock muskets were used, a person, the muskets had small pans meant to hold small amounts of gun powder.  When the flint struck the pan, sparks flew into the gun powder and this resulted in the gun firing off the bullet.   Of course, weather and other technical problems — which happened often — would lead to “flash in the pan” and no firing, especially if the gun powder was damp.

Posted in Idioms from the 16th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »