Thursday, December 31, 2015

To be "at sixes and sevens"

I observed to Ralph Coti this a.m. that I was "at sixes and sevens." He immediately shot back the following:

FYI: To be "at sixes and sevens" is a British English idiom used to describe a state of confusion or disarray.

Origin and early history

The phrase probably derives from a complicated dice game called "hazard".[1] It is thought that the expression was originally "cinque and sice"[1] (from the French numerals for five and six). These were considered to be the riskiest numbers to shoot for (to "set on"), and those who tried for them were considered careless or confused.
A similar phrase, "to set the world on six and seven", is used by Geoffrey Chaucer in his Troilus and Criseyde. It dates from the mid-1380s and seems from its context to mean "to hazard the world" or "to risk one's life".[2] William Shakespeare uses a similar phrase in Richard II, "But time will not permit: all is uneven, And every thing is left at six and seven".
The phrase is also used in Gilbert & Sullivan's comic opera H.M.S. Pinafore (1878), where the captain, confused as to what choices to make in his life, exclaims in the opening song of Act II, "Fair moon, to thee I sing, bright regent of the heavens, say, why is everything either at sixes or at sevens?"

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