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Even Steven

Posted by Pamela on May 31, 2006

In Reply to: Even Steven posted by Bob on May 30, 2006

: : : : : : : The taxi driver explained the origin of the phrase "even stevens" to me tonight (an unstoppable and very famous Australian horse was called "Even Stevens" and in a major race the odds offered were even and so on). I said I thought it was an American phrase and he said that, nope, they got it from us only they got it wrong and that Americans say "even Steven" instead of "even Stevens". Yes, people from Australia do say "It's even Stevens", yet a googlefight puts the singular "even Steven" ahead by about 53,000,000 worldwide. Is the singular use commonly preferred in the US (and what about Britain)? By the way, the horse story is true, but there's no evidence I can find that the horse's name was the origin of the phrase rather than the other way around (the horse won the Melbourne cup in 1962). Pamela

: : : : : : In the US, it's "even steven." And it's much older than 1962.

: : : : : Simple rhyming is a much simpler explanation. To get the numbers you have, you probably didn't googlefight fairly. Here's my results
: : : : : "even steven" -stevens
: : : : : vs
: : : : : "even stevens" -disney -shia -ren
: : : : : 190,000 to 210,000

: : : : : "even stephen" -stephens
: : : : : vs
: : : : : "even stephens" -disney -shia -ren
: : : : : 99,100 to 1,370

: : : : : Notice the quotes around the phrase which keeps you from counting pages that have even and steven anywhere on them. Also I subtracted the pages that have stevens from the pages that have "even steven" as that is also counting pages that have "even stevens". Also, "Even Stevens" is the name of a popular Disney Channel TV show so I tried to subtract Disney, Shia (an actor) and Ren (one of the characters) from those results because it's hardly fair to cite fan sites of the TV show as usage of the phrase.

: : : :
: : : : It's 'even Stevens' to East Pondians: I have never come across 'even Steven'.

: : : : DFG

: : : From The American Heritage® Dictionary, "even-steven, ADJECTIVE: Informal 1. Having nothing due or owed on either side: an even-steven transaction. 2. Having an equal score, as in a game or contest.
: : : ETYMOLOGY: even1 + the personal name Steven, used as rhyming slang."

: : : Since The American Heritage Dictionary is for Westpondians, I take it that our American version is even-steven, pace Disney. SS

: : 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).

: Does that mean Swift was secretly American?

Thanks for all that, especially the info re how to do a proper google fight (I didn't know about the Disney show). I had thought myself that the phrase belonged to the "drop dead fred" category, although it probably gained much wider use in Australia due to the profile of the horse.

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