Wednesday, April 6, 2011

This Is As Dressed Up As I'm Gonna Get

We all know what it means to be ‘dressed up to the nines’.  Its fun to do every once in a while . . . once in a verrrry long while for this jeans and sneakers girl.

What brings this up?  Well, my mind works in mysterious ways . . . actually I was listening to Andrew Lloyd Weber’s (BIG FAN) “Don’t cry for me Argentina and there’s a line where Madonna sings  "Dressed to the nines, at sixes and sevens with you”, which means looking beautiful and being driven crazy by something.

So, it got me thinking about the origin of this phrase.  Like a lot of idioms, often there is not a clear source and the etymology is vague, conflicting or confusing.

It is the same with ‘dressed to the nines’.

I had heard long ago that the phrase was actually bastardization of an old English saying “dressed to thine eyes”.  And, even the meaning of this phrase is unclear.  I always thought that it meant to dress in a way appealing to another person's "thine" eyes.  But I also came across another source that says it means that a woman has gussied herself up to include make-up on the eyes.  Personally, I’m sticking with the first one. 
In the same vein, it could also be a corruption of ‘dressed up to the neyen’.  Neyen, pronounced like nine, is old English meaning eyes.  Or, ‘dressed up for the nones’  . . . for the occasion.  Or, ‘dressed up for the nonce’ . . . for the once.    

I swear, you can’t make this stuff up!

When I started researching ‘dressed to the nines’ I thought it would end there.  But, alas, I still have not yet definitively uncovered the source. 

The Number Nine is considered an important number in numerology, religions and mathematical science.  It is the last of all digits, symbolically it marks the end.  It is a number of finality or judgment.

Among others may be mentioned (1) that the sum of the digits which form its multiples are themselves always a multiple of nine; e.g., 2 x 9 = 18 (and 1+8=9); 3 x 9 = 27 (and 2+7=9); 4 x 9 = 36 (and 3+6=9); 5 x 9 = 45 (and 4+5=9), etc., etc.; and so with the larger numbers: 52843 x 9 = 475587 (and 4+7+5+5+8+7=36, and 3+6=9). (2) The sum of its multiples through the nine digits = 405, or 9 times 45.

It is akin to the number six, six being the sum of its factors (3x3=9, and 3+3=6), and is thus significant of the end of man, and the summation of all man's works.

If you look at it from the perspective of on a scale of one to ten, the number ten would be perfection.  Since perfection is unattainable, nine would be the greatest you could achieve. 

Yeah, my head is about to explode, too . . .

The Nine Worthies
The earliest citation I could find relating to the revered number was from the late 17th century. ‘To the nine' or 'to the nines' were common phrases that were used to indicate meeting the highest standards.   This well before ‘dressed to the nines’ was used.  The reference was to The Nine Worthies.  The Nine were drawn from the Pagan and Jewish history and from the Bible. They are the epitome of chivalry: Hector, Alexander the Great, Caesar, David, Joshua, Judas Macchabeus, Charlemagne, Arthur, Godfrey of Bouillon.

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.
John Rawlett, 1687

The bonny Lines therein thou sent me,
How to the nines they did content me.
William Hamilton's Epistle to Ramsay, 1719

'Dressed to the nines' could also have been used to describe dressing in a manner that would impress the nine Muses.  The Nine Muses were Greek goddesses, daughters of Zeus, who ruled over the arts and sciences: Calliope , Clio, Erato, Euterpe, Melpomene, Polyhymnia, Terpsichore, Thalia, Urania. 
The Nine Muses

From language, to numbers, to historical figures, to manner of dress . . .

When long gloves were fashionable as a part of women’s formalwear in the 15th century, they would contain nine buttons from wrist to elbow.

Or, when in men’s formal wear studs were used in the place of closures for the shirt, cuffs and to secure the collar and tie. The count was as four studs of the front of the shirt, two for the collar, two for each cuff and one for the tie.  Nine in all.

I’ve also read about a point system related to how dressed up one can be without being overdressed.  For example: one point for a dress, two points for a dress with jacket, one point for hose, one point for low shoes, two points for high heels, one point each for necklace, bracelet and watch, etc. Your total number of points could not exceed nine, or you would be overdressed. You only wanted to be "dressed to the nines," not "dressed to the tens."

It is also thought that ‘dressed to the nines’ is related to ‘the whole nine yards’.   A tailor making the best quality suit or gown would use nine yards of fabric so that all the fabric is cut in the same direction with the warp, or long strands of thread, parallel with the vertical line of the outfit.

So, that clears that up, no?  Yeah . . . uhm . . . no.


Sloppy Joes

  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 3 Pounds Ground Beef
  • 1 Whole Large Onion, Diced
  • 1 Whole Large Green Bell Pepper, Diced
  • 5 Cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1/2 Cup Ketchup
  • 1 Cup Water
  • 2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
  • 2 Teaspoons Chili Powder )
  • 1 Teaspoon Dry Mustard
  • 2 Teaspoons Red Pepper Flakes 
  • Worcestershire Sauce, To Taste
  • 1 Can Tomato Paste
  • Tabasco Sauce (Optional; To Taste)
  • Salt To Taste
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper, To Taste

Add butter to a large skillet.  Add ground beef and cook until brown. Drain most of the fat and discard.

Add onions, green pepper, and garlic. Cook for a few minutes, or until vegetables begin to get soft.

Add ketchup, brown sugar, chili pepper, dry mustard, tomato paste, Worcestershire, and Tabasco and water. Stir to combine and simmer for 15 minutes, adding salt and pepper to taste. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

Spoon meat mixture over potato rolls and chips!

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