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(I apologize for the silly question ahead)

I've lost some weight recently, and I was able, for the first time today, to close my belt buckle using a notch higher than usual...

For the life of me I can't figure out if I "went up a notch" or "down a notch"?

Is this phrase even applicable for an actual belt?

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I feel like if anything, this usage would be considered a pun. – Justin L. Jan 29 '11 at 21:06
In the Corpus of Contemporary American English I find many sentences containing down a notch, but none of them has a reference to a belt. – kiamlaluno Jan 29 '11 at 21:18
Aside: there's also the colloquial expression put a notch in your belt or similar, referring to a knife-mark made in tally of sexual conquests. A guitarist may notch his guitar for the same reason. It originally arose from the Old-West practice of notching the stock of your gun for every man you killed. – Jon Purdy Jan 29 '11 at 22:23
up vote 3 down vote accepted

down a notch means down a level. It is used in sentences like

Turn the volume down a notch.

or, figuratively, in sentences like

Anyone who names a board game after himself needs to be taken down a notch or two.
Soon he was taken down a notch.

The expression you are looking for is probably to notch (something) tighter.

She notched her belt tighter.

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Makes sense, thanks! – Igal Tabachnik Jan 29 '11 at 22:09
+1 I love these short but accurate answers – Ivo Rossi Jan 31 '11 at 11:30

Normally, waistbands are described as being 'taken in' or 'let out'. I would suggest that when describing notches on a belt (notches in a belt?) that the proper phrases would be something like, "After dieting for two weeks I'm buckling my belt in one notch in."

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“Go up (or down) a notch” is not the usual idiom. I would avoid it. It is idiomatic to say something like:

  • “I took my belt in a notch” (to indicate a smaller waist or a condition of extreme hunger)
  • “I let my belt out a notch” (to indicate a larger waist or a condition of extreme satiety)

These expressions “take in” and “let out” are also used when referring to alterations of clothing for a similar purpose. For example, one might have one’s trousers “taken in” or “let out”.

See “take in” and “let out” at MacmillanDictionary.com.

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