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Make [both] ends meet

Posted by James Briggs on February 06, 2005

In Reply to: Make [both] ends meet posted by Smokey Stover on February 05, 2005

: : I heard on SaysYou! that the etiology of "make ends meet" involves the corset: making the two sides of the corset come together in back. I can find no confirmation of this meaning (I only can find reference to the financial meaning: having enough income to cover expenses). I need some documentation of the corset meaning.
: : Thanks for any assistance.

: I can't document the corset theory. The OED quotes the phrase: " to make both, two ends, the two ends of the year, meet: to live within one's income [cf. Fr. joindre les deux bouts, les deux bouts de l'an]," but does not give support to the corset theory. The OED cites it from 1884, no corsets mentioned. SS

Here's what I've found out over the years!

Most probably the term comes from accountancy where "meet" used to be an adjective meaning "equal" or "balanced". The "end" was the end of the financial year in which both profit and loss accounts had to be balanced: the ends had to be met.
An alternative explanation is that it came from tailoring or dressmaking, in which the amount of cloth available might only just be sufficient
to complete the garment, so that it would wrap completely around the body, making the ends meet. A saying with this sense occurs in Polish.
In truth, this is yet another saying with no certain origin, just suggestions.

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