Two persons, who were not privy to a scene, are now observing two others who are talking:


[one of the former, reacting to something that was just said]

-Why did she/he say that!? What is he/she talking about??

-Can't you see the person is embroidering?

-Oh, I see... [or]
-Where's the needle?? [or]
-Android-a-ring?? [!]

Is that idiomatical in AmE/BrE today? Is there another expression in context for saying that someone is making up details, or even embellishing a story - yet not necessarily lying - and which is related to some fine craft or technique(science, business etc.), while possibly being more idiomatic than to embroider(NED)?1 I'm looking at the description of the make up verb phrase but don't find it particularly insightful...

1. The archaic verb to broider is obviously very similar to the french verb broder, which also has that decorative needlework meaning(and the verb could mean upon something as well as the making up of the whole garment), but also figuratively speaking, with words or even music, bears this idea(also referenced in the NED) of an industrious and pretty make up basically, while being completely idiomatic: when you think about what dentelle(lace) is for instance, it's about a clever, custom (hand, preferably)made, and sophisticated pattern(of cloth). Therein lies the idea imho.

2 Answers 2


"Gilding the lily" is a good expression for inappropriate adornment; when used of a narrative account, it implies departure from strict historical accuracy.

  • Thanks! this is beautiful. I wish it didn't have that wasteful/unnecessary connotation but still.
    – user98955
    Jan 8, 2015 at 20:27

One might say they are "embellishing" a story. (Or, "exaggerating", although that suggests stretching the truth, rather than adorning it.)

  • Thank you. But please note I have embellishing directly in the Q text. Also, perhaps I should have said "is a craft" instead of craft "related". What I mean is that embroidering is literally this craft, it could be a profession. I'm looking for that component too...
    – user98955
    Jan 9, 2015 at 7:47
  • There is a technique in art called "collage", which involved adding layers to build a textured picture. In sewing, adding layers to build up a decorative pattern is called "appliqué. Either of these craft methods could be a metaphor for embellishing a story. Jan 9, 2015 at 8:37

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