In Reply to: Even steven(s) posted by ESC on May 26, 2008 at 09:38:
: : An internet search on "Even stevens vs. even steven" it is noted that Even Stevens was an Australian horse that one two major cups in Melbourne in 1962. Even Stevens was a New Zealand horse owned by Sir James Wattie and brought to Melbourne for the cup carnival. He visited the company who employed me at that time. The phrase "Even Stevens" definitely gained prominence following his two significant wins. I have no recollection of ever hearing the phrase prior to 1962 although it may have been a dormant expression in Melbourne.
: Here is another theory:
: EVEN STEVEN -- The term apparently stems from a character in Jonathan Swift's "Journal to Stella" : "'Now we are even,' quote Steven, when he gave his wife six blows to one.' Stella was Swift's name for Esther Johnson, and his 'Journal' letters to her described his daily life in London. Their relationship was a complicated one. Swift, 14 years Stella's senior, taught her to read and write, loved her all his life and when he died was buried beside her, but the two lovers probably never married." From the "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997).
A taxi driver also told me this story a while back and I checked it out at the time - it's true about the horse "Even Stevens" winning the cup, but the phrase "even steven" is much older than 1962, so the horse was named for the phrase rather than the phrase origniating with the horse's name. No doubt the win prompted the phrase to come into prominant use in Australia. I assume the horses owners knew it. Where the contested "s" in Steven(s) comes from, I don't know. Pamela