What was said? “That’s me to a T!”
Did someone really say that? Yes, my coworker responded with the saying after I mentioned, “It’s only 10am and I’m already thinking about lunch!”
What does it mean? The gist of “to a T” is that it it’s exactly right, and in the proclamation above, what I said fit my colleague perfectly!
Origin: There are multiple forms of the expression – To a T/Tee and To the Tee/T are the most common; the original form ‘to a T’ is an older phrase dating back to the 17th century. The earliest citation found is in James Wright’s satire The Humours and Conversations of the Town, 1693: “All the under Villages and Towns-men come to him for Redress; which he does to a T.”
The proper usage of the expression uses the letter T as the initial of a word and is thought to be a derivation of the word ‘tittle’. A tittle is a small stroke or point in writing and is best described as a more modern term ‘jot.’ The phrase ‘to a tittle’ existed in English (and in print earlier in the 17th century) before ‘to a T’, and has the same meaning. For example, in Francis Beaumont’s Jacobean comedy drama The Woman Hater, 1607. we find: Ile quote him to a tittle.
Note – sometimes it’s written as “To The T” or “To a Tee” – both are apparently incorrect and not the original form of the expression. Thought to be linked to the modern 20th century word T-Shirt – as in a T-Shirt could fit you “To a T!” Finally, T-Square is a measurement of instrument meant to be precise, etc. and is debatable among experts if it has anything to do with the expression as well.