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Please, does anyone know the origin of the idiom "dot the i's and cross the t's"? This is very strange looking idiom and I have absolutely no idea why it means do something very carefully and in a lot of
detail...Please, what that acronyms I's and T's stands for? Does anyone know it? Answers.com page is just saying that this idiom presumably began as an admonition to schoolchildren to write carefully and is sometimes shortened. I came across to this idiom in an Without a Trace TV show, where this idiom was used by one member of the missing person squad.
Boss of the FBI bureau: Any...procedural irregularities that would adversely affect the prosecution of the suspects.
FBI employe: Well, you know me boss. "I's" dotted, "t's" crossed. It's all in my report.
many thanks in advance guys.
Approved answer (verified by Philip)
It is almost never used as an actualy admonition to school children. It's used instead as a metaphor to mean that you did absolutely everything that is supposed to be done, usually as it relates to following a specific procedure.
A similar metaphor: I made sure nothing is going to fall through the cracks.
One iott or one tytle of the lawe shall not scape.
The King James Version put it this way: For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
Both the "jot" and "tittle" refer to very small parts of the written word. "Jot" is derived from the Greek "iota", meaning the letter "i", which is derived from the Hebrew "yod", referring to the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet. "Tittle" refers to any small pen stroke like an accent mark over a letter or the dot over the eye.
Both are used as analogies of very tiny, seemingly insignificant things that actually are rather important.
If you are trying to write from dictation, you can't do this until you're done.
You also have the problem of the ink drying on the pen and of running out and having to dip again. Modern inks have chemicals in them so that you can leave your ink bottle open the whole time you are writing and it won't dry out.
I feel pretty sure that dotting i's and crossing t's was the last step in producing a document so that you could produce a smooth written line and keep your ink from drying out.
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