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Under control

Posted by James Briggs on November 18, 2005

In Reply to: Under control posted by Victoria S Dennis on November 18, 2005

: : : To say you got it under control would you say the phrase: "I got it down (pat, or packed)."

: : pat

: "Pat" as an adjective means "perfect, apposite, opportune". Thus to get a "pat hand" in poker is to get such a good set of cards in the initial deal that you don't expect to improve your hand by drawing any more cards. As an adverb you might say of an alibi, or the plot of a novel, "that's a bit too pat" meaning "too neat and convenient to be plausible"; or you can have a speech or an excuse "off pat" meaning "word-perfect". (VSD)

But why is 'pat' used this way? The
saying has been in use since the 17th century but its precise origin is not altogether clear. The best suggestion I've found is that it is derived from the sense of the word a "light touch". If something only needs a light touch to get it right then it must be almost perfect. Not very convincing I'm afraid, but it's all that I could find. 'Pat' in 1811 meant "apposite, or to the purpose"