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Re: At odds and ends

Posted by Pamela on July 06, 2008 at 23:40

In Reply to: Re: At odds and ends posted by ESC on July 04, 2008 at 21:06:

: : Can you tell me what the meaning/origin Is of the English Phrase/saying "AT ODDS AND ENDS"? Where does it come from?

: In the U.S., I have heard "odds and ends" used to mean random items. This and that. And I've heard "at sixes and sevens." See
: http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/sixes-and-sevens.html

Odds and ends (or odds and sods), bits and bobs, this and that, bits and pieces are all used to mean random items. But it also has been used to mean "in a state of disarray", for example:

"...the Madame Manilov whom we have seen entrenched behind the walls of a genteel mansion in which there were a fine staircase of wrought metal and a number of rich carpets; the Madame Manilov who spent most of her time in yawning behind half-read books, and in hoping for a visit from some socially distinguished person in order that she might display her wit and carefully rehearsed thoughts-thoughts which had been de rigeur in town for a week past, yet which referred, not to what was going on in her household or on her estate-both of which properties were at odds and ends, owing to her ignorance of the art of managing them-but to the coming political revolution in France and the direction in which fashionable Catholicism was supposed to be moving?"

(Dead Souls - Gogal, 1842, trans. Hogarth, no clue to translation date). http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/g/gogol/nikolai/g61d/g61d.html

There are another couple of examples which suggest that the "state of disarray" can just as easily be psychological. As well, in the A-Ha song "Take on Me" it seems to mean "at a loose end":

We're talking away.
I don't know what I'm to say.
I'll say it anyway.
Today's another day,
To find you shyin' away.
I'll be coming for your love, OK?

Take on me. (Take on me.)
Take me on. (Take on me,)
I'll be gone,
In a day or two.

So needless to say,
I'm odds and ends,
But I'll be stumblin' away.
Slowly learning that life is OK.
Say after me,
"It's no better to be safe than sorry."

[Chorus]

We're talking away.
I don't know what I'm to say.
I'll say it anyway.
Today's another day,
To find you shyin' away.
I'll be coming for your love, OK?

[Variation on chorus]

(http://www.mp3lyrics.org/a/a-ha/take-on-me/)
Pamela