Elle est toujours tirée à quatre épingles.

Elle est toujours tirée à quatre épingles.

ay lay too-zhoor tee-ray ah kaa-tray PAA-gluh. Click below to hear this.*

She is always dressed to the nines.

Well, that wouldn’t be me. I’m a blue-jeans-and-sandals kind of gal. I do admire people who know how to dress elegantly. But what do all these numbers have to do with anything?

Maybe American women think they are properly dressed only when their clothes cost $99 or more. Maybe it takes nine garments to achieve a “look”. Let’s see: skirt, blouse, jacket, scarf, bracelet, necklace–are we there yet? Guess that’s not it.

And maybe the French expression is left over from the days when pins were expensive, a luxury item, and zippers hadn’t been invented yet. Clothes were sometimes held shut with pins. If you needed four pins, was that a fancy outfit? Or perhaps it means that your hair is pulled back and held in place with four pins. After all, the literal meaning of tirée à quatre épingles is pulled with four pins.

Nah. I have no idea how either of these expressions came into being. I am making it all up as I go, and they will remain a great mystery. Enjoy them anyway.

*Some mobile phones, such as Blackberries, won’t display the audio player. If no player appears, here’s an alternative link to the audio file:

toujours_tiree_a_quatre_epingles.mp3

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