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Put two and two together

Posted by R. Berg on June 01, 2008 at 17:30

In Reply to: Put two and two together posted by Kimberley on June 01, 2008 at 16:28:

: Why 'put two and two together'? Why not 'put one and together' or any other simple number for that matter? Do you know the origin of this idiom and why it is with twos?

Interesting question. "Two and two make four" is a traditional choice for illustrating something elementary that everyone ought to know. A person who can't think clearly is described as not knowing that 2 + 2 = 4. A person who uses false logic (faulty arguments) to manipulate people is said to make 2 and 2 add up to 5. I don't know why 2 got the place of honor. Maybe 1 is *too* simple.

There's a British saying, "He doesn't know how many beans make five." Why 5?

Then there's "C-A-T spells 'cat,'" a similar use of one elementary bit of knowledge to represent elementary knowledge generally. The word could have been anything. T-H-E spells "the." ~rb (U.S.)