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"Sixes and Sevens"
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2013/03/31
8:35pm
larrfirr
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From “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina”  

Although she’s dressed up to the nines
At sixes and sevens with you

 

Maybe someone could explain the origin of “dressed to the nines”

2013/03/31
11:50pm
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Heimhenge
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“Dressed to the nines” has a well known etymology. See:   http://www.wordorigins.org/index.php/site/dressed_to_the_nines/

Don’t know about the “sixes and sevens” part though.

 

2013/04/01
8:00am
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Glenn
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Heimhenge said

“Dressed to the nines” has a well known etymology.

 

Interesting that its well-researched history does not uncover any satisfactory explanation for the nines which, I suspect, is at the heart of the question. Rather than to pick an unsatisfactory explanation, we are best to keep researching and indicate that, while it is a very old expression, the origin of the nines is currently not very clear.

2013/04/01
9:59pm
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RobertB
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Oxford Dictionaries has this:
…dressed to the nines developed as an extension of the much earlier phrase to the nines, meaning ‘to perfection, to the greatest degree…Why it should have been to the nines rather than to the eights, to the sevens, etc. remains unclear.
 
Maybe that’s what  it is: 9 is favored for being a high digit, both high and still a simple decimal digit. And then being trinity of trinities, 3 being perhaps the most important number in human consciousness.
 
 Which also explains ‘the whole nine yards,’ ‘on cloud nine,’ whose somewhat more definitive roots ( respectively dress tailoring, atmospheric science), if to be believed, still do not by themselves single out 9 over other digits. Other 9’s :  Dante’s 9 circles of hell, the 9 lives of the cat. And 9s in religious doctrines.

 

2013/04/01
10:21pm
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Heimhenge
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Totally agree RobertB. Not like I’m a fan of numerology, but that mythology does have cultural influence and affects language. And the number 9 does have some very positive connotations. Contrary to Glenn’s assertion:

Glenn said: … history does not uncover any satisfactory explanation for the nines …

I believe it’s perfectly well explained by numerology’s influence on culture.

2013/04/02
5:12am
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Glenn
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I appreciate your position, but I haven’t found the dictionary you used. Michael Quinion refers to that as a theory that has been posited, among several others. As an intellectual argument, it makes as much sense as any of the others. In the absence of documentation, I guess one theory is as good as the next.

to the nines World Wide Words

2013/04/03
3:57pm
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Heimhenge
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I stand contradicted. Thinking your source (Quinion) is the better. Apparently, the etymology is less certain than I thought. I do have to admit that, even within numerology, the “meaning” of 9 is somewhat ambiguous.

 

2013/04/03
4:59pm
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Glenn
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Dennis Harper of the Online Etymology Dictionary has a very, very different number in mind. He seems to favor the idea that the nines is a corruption of the old form of one. ... to than anes. / … to then anes.
It is an oblique form of one, from whence we get both once and nonce.
nines

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