Posted by ESC on October 06, 1999
In Reply to: At sixes and sevens posted by Dave on October 06, 1999
: According to my dictionary, the meaning is "in disorder." But I want to know the origin. The first time I saw it was in a book written in 1938. Can anyone enlighten me?
From "Hog on Ice" by Charles Earle Funk: (paraphrased) The expression is believed to be 150 years old at least (this written in 1948). An older form, "on six and seven," was known in Chaucer's day and he used it in 1375 in "Troylus and Cryseyde." But he didn't explain it. Mr. Funk thinks Chaucer's use referred to an old dicing game. From Chaucer and other sources, we know there was a game where to try a throw of six and seven was a very risky gamble. One who staked his win on such a throw was reckless in the extreme.