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Thread: To a T

  1. Newbie
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    #1

    To a T

    Hi everybody,

    Recently I've come across an interesting and new to me idiom - "to a T" which I found in the dictionary when I was looking for another way to say "perfectly, exactly". Is it a commonly used expression or an outdated one? And most importantly, in which writing style can it be used? Is it appropriate to say "to meet a deadline to a T"?

    Thank you.

  2. Tarheel's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: To a T

    It means "exactly" or "perfectly" and the "t" part of the expression comes from "tittle" which is a printer's mark.

    Apparently, it is still in use, but don't be surprised if the people you know have never heard it before.

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    #3

    Re: To a T

    Quote Originally Posted by Alena88 View Post
    Is it appropriate to say "to meet a deadline to a T"?
    No. The only context the phrase appears in is it fits you to a T.

    It's not terribly common in American English but you can hear it from time to time. It's not part of most people's everyday vocabulary.
    I am not a teacher.

  4. probus's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: To a T

    I was surprised to learn how uncommon it is because I use it myself. But a cursory review of the CoCA shows that it simply means exact or perfect, regardless of context, and also that it is rare in AmE.
    Last edited by probus; 07-Jan-2017 at 04:45.

  5. Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    #5

    Re: To a T

    It's not uncommon in BrE, where it is not only used for clothes- a steak could be cooked to a T, etc..

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    #6

    Re: To a T

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    It's not uncommon in BrE, where it is not only used for clothes- a steak could be cooked to a T, etc..
    This reminds me that an English friend often uses this expression. It's one of the speech habits that make her still sound English. Forty-some years in the States has shifted her accent considerably but she retains a lot of Britishisms.
    I am not a teacher.

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    #7

    Re: To a T

    Quote Originally Posted by probus View Post
    I was surprised to learn how uncommon it is because I use it myself. But a cursory review of the CoCA shows that it simply means exact or perfect, regardless of context, and also that it is rare in AmE.
    I wouldn't be surprised if it's more common in Canadian English than AmE. I don't remember hearing it when I lived in Toronto but that's been rather a long time ago now and I may not have retained that little detail.
    I am not a teacher.

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    #8

    Re: To a T

    I've used it myself on very rare occasion, particularity the 'cooked to a T'. I could probably count the number of times I've used it on both hands, however, and possibly one hand.

    However, I also tend to collect and use rare or quaint expressions, just to be different. For example, I'm single-handedly (apparently) trying to institute the comeback of 'codswallop' in daily speech. Sadly, I've had no success.
    Wear short sleeves! Support your right to bare arms!

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    #9

    Re: To a T

    If it makes you feel any better, codswallop certainly isn't defunct in the UK. I use it a lot, as do most of my family.

    Most of us use "verb-ed to a T" fairly frequently too.
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

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    #10

    Re: To a T

    Your codswallop campaign is a good one, though.

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