Posted by: Jack Henry | August 23, 2022

Editor’s Corner: Idioms from RF

I’m taking a break from the days of the week.

Today’s Editor’s Corner is dedicated to Ron Fauset, who asked me about these idioms some time ago. He managed to fit all of them into one email, but here they are split out, along with their definitions and where I found them. Enjoy!

Get to the point (The Free Dictionary)

To reach the most important or crucial part of something.

To speak plainly; to address the main issue. This expression, which in British parlance is usually phrased come to the point, dates from Chaucer’s time. Chaucer himself wrote in the “Prologue” to The Canterbury Tales, “This is the poynt, to speken short and pleyn.”

Fit to a T (Daily Writing Tips)

The expression “to a T,” as in “That suits you to a T!” is often mistakenly written or said as “to the T” (or “to a tee” or “to the tee”).

But what, exactly, is a “T”? None of the various proposed origins of “to a T” is definitive, but only one makes any sense. The opinion that it refers to how well a T-shirt fits is nonsensical: The term for a collarless, short-sleeved shirt is less than a hundred years old, and the expression dates to the late 1600s.

That also disqualifies the more plausible theory that it alludes to the precision a T square, the T-shaped drafting tool, enables; the first attested use in print of the tool’s name postdates the first use of the phrase by nearly a century. And it has nothing to do with the golf implement known as the tee, which has always been spelled as such (though the spelling error “to a tee” goes back hundreds of years).

Most likely, the phrase is descended from the expression “to a tittle.” A tittle is a small mark used in orthographic details, such as the dot over an i or a j or a diacritical mark such as an accent mark, and the sense is “to the smallest detail.”

(See more on the tittle here at Editor’s Corner: Title, Tilde, and Tittle.)

The long and the short of it (Merriam-Webster)

Used when making a statement that is brief and that tells someone only the most important parts of something.

Example from (British, with the long and short reversed)

The short and long of it is the substance; the plain truth. It is used to refer to something which is unambiguous and may be described quite simply—the long version and the short version being the same. For example, "You can debate the 1971 Ali/Frazier fight all you like but the long and short of it is, Frazier won.”

get short with (The Free Dictionary)

To speak or react to one in a curt or abrupt manner.

Ron gave me one more thing to research: short shrift. I’m saving that for an article of its own.

Hmm, what’s up with all of the “short” idioms?

I hope you all have a good day!

Kara Church | Technical Editor, Advisory | Technical Publications

Pronouns: she/her | (619) 542-6773 |

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