Sixes and sevens

Page 2 of 2 | Previous page

21 comments on this post.
  1. David Bovee:

    Grand Guy Grand and his aunts, in Terry Southern’s The Magic Christian, maintain that the expression refers to craps: you come out on your point (in this case six) and then throw a seven, in which case you lose. “What gives the expression bite,” says Grand, “is that six is usually an easy point to make….”

    This reference from memory–I may have it wrong.

  2. Mike Byrne:

    Surely more likely to be from the early days of east meets west. The figure for 6 used in arabic cultures and the one we use for 7 are such that in the early days when the cultures mixed and one of those figures was written alone it must have been difficult to decide which it was meant to be. Just my theory.

  3. Ivan Finkle:

    I believe “all sixes and sevens” derives from golf. Most golf holes have as par four, some five. When a golfer is all sixes and sevens he’s not making any pars, but bogies (1 over par) and double bogies (2 over par). In other words he’s having a lousy day.

  4. Jon Camilleri:

    In my opinion it more likely to be from the game of Cribbage … if you are all 6’s and 7’s in cribbage you are truly in a dilemma as to which card to throw into the crib … and at a huge disadvantage for the game … unless you are the dealer (as seen in the attache dsolutions to what to do if you are BOTH all sixes and sevens.

  5. MrHistoricallyInaccurate:

    Craps, Cribbage and Golf are all outdated by Chaucers reference. The East meets West may have a little validity but the middle east was still in turmoil after the crusades during Chaucers time. I’d say the cinque and cice would hold the most validity as English was the second language of England during this period. The primary (official) language was bastardised French as spoken by the nobility.

  6. Gary:

    It may have been a game of dice game that the phrase, ‘6’s and 7’s was originally termed. But, it good that it is re-termed through the ages. I was when I was in a rehab on a 12 step programme for alcoholism, when I was on steps 6/7, look at our behavioural defects, that I was led to believe that’s where the phrase comes from. It was a set up and I told the full rehab of my findings. Until that time, I was always at 6’s and 7’s. Five years on and I have not had an alcoholic drink. 6’s and 7’s worked for me.

  7. Gary:

    Ha! Looking at my grammatical errors above, I believe I’m still at 6’s and 7’s?

  8. Don:

    As a mathematician I feel that, apart from historical considerations, the phrase still works for me because six and seven are incompatible, I.e. have no common factor. Of course, five and six also works.

  9. Vivienne Vine:

    I understood it (and was double checking) to be number of barges following the King’s Barge … they couldn’t make up their minds which of six and seven was more impoortant, so it was decided that first 6 went first in the order of things, then 7. I am not sure what these barges carried but if you could find out what all of them carried, we would be nearer the answer to this one.

  10. A Six Pack of Mustaches:

    […] you enjoy it, or does it leave you all sixes and sevens, which I’m feeling myself these […]

  11. Mike Wilson:

    Mike, I agree

    Yours is the most logical reference with the base of East and West confusion — lost in translation.
    Wars have been started on less.
    I have been told all my life that 6’s and 7’s means — “I don’t know whether I am coming or going with you” and is easier said “I’m at 6’s and 7’s”.

    The confusion that derives from the ambiguity of similar script form could well have spawned been anchored to…….the 6 and the 7.


  12. 6s (and 7s) | Roof Pig! Most Unexpected.:

    […] playing a dice game called Hazard, where betting on rolling a 5 and a 6 was thought a risky move; the phrase gradually morphed to involve 6 and 7 instead–a pairing not possible through rolling dice (so clearly the riskiest bet of all). Betting on […]

  13. Louigi:

    And remember that six and seven add up to 13!

  14. Crow:

    Whatever the answer to its origins, I suspect it is the secret origin of a famous question. Stephen Fry could confirm or deny this, but he may take the secret with him when he dies, either way.

    Douglas Adams, in the Hitch Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, describes life as full of irrationality, indeterminacy, The ‘everyman’ figure of Arthur Dent is dropped into this world like a goldfish into an ocean, and the confusion is total, and persistent, and points out that our life is pretty much like this even without a strange story to go with it.

    All we can do is combine the irrationally related parts of life around us as best we can. So what do you get if you combine each of those sixes with one of those sevens?


  15. M M Sands:

    42. Of course. Thanks, Crow. I think you’re on to something. Now, if we can just get its relationship with 23 …

  16. James:

    As a newcomer to watching English Football (soccer) I first heard the phrase ” they are at 6’s and 7’s ” The formation of the football defence is usally 4 men in the backfield. When 6 or even 7 men are called into support a defence under attack and behind the ball, the team is said to be at 6’s and 7’s. That was the way that my imagination explained a term with which I was unfamiliar.

  17. Robert:

    Biblically speaking, sixes (666) is the number for the Antichrist while sevens (777) is the number for the true Messiah – two entities in eternal conflict with one another. Just sayin’.

  18. Rudy:

    Dressed up to the nines at sixes and sevens with you.

    Wards in old London. Ninth ward was known for its fancy attire. The sixth and seventh ward always battled for political control of the old city. Ergo, the phrase.


  19. Charles:

    What about the bird shooter who cannot decide which size of shot to use – 6s and 7s being the commonest usually used?

  20. Clyde Bickford:

    I’ve often thought this could or even should have been the origin, but regardless of the origin, it certainly is apt for golf..
    I can’t tell you how often I’ve been at sixes and sevens with my round (of golf) :(

  21. Don:

    There was a famous race between a field of Triumph TR6’s and the newly introduced TR7’s in the mid 1970s. It looked like a mismatch of the stronger TR6 6-cyliders and the weaker (yet nimbler) 4-cylinder TR7’s. The only time I’ve heard the reference to 6’s and 7’s was in an Austin Powers movie, and I thought/hoped the reference was about the Triumph race. Thanks for the notes on the likely history of the term… I like to think of this more modern application as well. :-)

Leave a comment