down to a T, down pat

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Jiab, Dec 3, 2005.

  1. Jiab New Member

    Thai, Thailand
    Hi all,

    I have searched high and low, on-line and off-line, for the origin of the T and the pat...

    Anyone's got a clue?

    Grateful for _any_ help,
  2. jimreilly

    jimreilly Senior Member

    American English
    My old and OED (Oxford English Dictionary) says the origin of "down to a T" has not been discovered, and that several theories remain discounted or unproven (T-square, tees in curling, etc.).

    It also says that pat, in the sense of being exact, appropriate, comes from "hit with a pat", to hit accurately, not miss.

    But this is the old OED (I won't spend the money to buy a new one!) and maybe something else has been discovered since.
  3. river Senior Member

    U.S. English
    "TO A T - a possible origin suggests that the T stands for "Title", a minute and precisely positioned pen stroke or printer's mark. A tiny brushstroke was all that distinguished the Hebrew letter "dalet" from "resh". "Title" was the word chosen by Wycliffe to translate references to this tiny difference in his version of the New Testament. Thus the mark was perfectly suited to its task."

    "PAT -- From "The Dictionary of Etymology: The Origins of American English Words" by Robert K. Barnhart (HarperCollins, 1995): "pat2 adv., suitably. 1578, perhaps a special use of pat1 (a light tap), in the sense of hitting the mark; and thus 'opportunely,' ready for any occasion."
  4. jimreilly

    jimreilly Senior Member

    American English
    Well, I've got one thing down (is this the same as saying I've got it down pat?): I should never play poker against river.

    ---since I wrote this I think something goet edited above that makes my poker reference no longer relevant
  5. nycphotography

    nycphotography Senior Member

    I do be learnin stuff
    John-Paul Miller, NYC
    Not quite exactly.

    Having "something down" is to have learned it, digested it, you've got it down, like a heavy meal. This is usually applied to knowledge and concepts.

    Having something "down pat" means having it perfected. This is usually applied to skills.
  6. Jiab New Member

    Thai, Thailand
    To all,

    Thank you very, very much!


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