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I am trying to describe the act of an official attaching a medal to a recipient's clothing (chest) during an awards ceremony. Is "to drape a medal" the correct usage? I don't think "to pin a medal" sounds formal.

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    Well, if it's not on a ribbon or sash then you're not draping it. "Pin on" is perfectly correct, though you could always wimp out and just say "award". – Hot Licks Dec 28 '14 at 15:10
  • @HotLicks Yes, I did think about "award" and "bestow" and felt much like you said that it was wimping out! – user40248 Dec 28 '14 at 15:12
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I don't believe to pin and to drape differ at all in terms of register or formality. The difference is semantic:

pin (v): attach or fasten with a pin or pins in a specified position.

drape (v): arrange (cloth or clothing) loosely or casually on or around something.

You may find examples of "drape a medal around someone's neck," but the action you want to describe - "attaching a medal to a recipient's clothing (chest) during an awards ceremony" - is clearly one of pinning, not draping.

As a side note, we do have the following expression in English, which is a caustic way of responding to someone's boasting:

Would you like a medal or a chest to pin it on?

  • RT, thank you. By the way, I don't quite understand the expression; by implying that the person who is boasting has no chest, does it try to denigrate that person as less than human? Just curious. – user40248 Dec 28 '14 at 13:36
  • I don't think most people interpret the expression too deeply; rather, they simply understand the idea of "don't be such a braggart." But I've seen different explanations of the "chest" part of the expression; some say it implies the person should be more "manly", others that it relates somehow to "puffing out one's chest", which is another way of saying "boasting." I honestly don't know, but there is no strong implication that the person doesn't have a chest. – Rusty Tuba Dec 28 '14 at 13:56
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This is just me talking from 30 years as a florist... (seen a lot of funerals) The only time I've heard "drape" a medal, is when someone puts it on a dead body lying in state, or on the casket. (Or, on a likeness of the recipient.) I don't think you use "pin" or "award" in the case of actually presenting it posthumously.

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