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Generous to a tee

Posted by Victoria S Dennis on November 08, 2009 at 15:18

In Reply to: Generous to a tee posted by Liz Curry on November 08, 2009 at 13:16:

: Does anyone else remember the phrase 'generous to a tee'? Not sure how to spell it! Where does it come from and what's the correct spelling?

It's a muddling of two unrelated phrases: "to a fault" and "to a T". To have any good quality "to a fault" means "to have too much of that virtue, so that it becomes a fault". You can certainly be generous to a fault, just as you can be punctual to a fault, loyal to a fault, truthful to a fault, and so on.

But "generous to a T" is actually quite meaningless, because "to a T" means "to a very exact, precise degree" as in "judged to to a T", "fitted to a T" and "suits me to a T".

"To a T" is decended from an earlier phrase "to a tittle" - "tittle" being the old English name for the dot over the Greek letter iota. Iota being the smallest letter in the Greek alphabet, the dot over the iota is a metaphor for a minuscule amount of anything. ("Tittle" is now only used in the phrase "jot or tittle" - jot being an Anglicisation of "iota".)


See also: the meaning and origin of the phrase 'To a T'.