Sixes, sevens, nines,

All you will see is a girl you once knew (although she's dressed up to the nines) at sixes and sevens with you. ~Don't Cry For Me, Argentina (Evita).

There are (thankfully) many, many years between me and my Andrew Lloyd Weber days, but over the weekend I found myself dwelling on these lyrics. I still think it clever that ALW worked these number-based phrases into his lyrics, and after a wildly hilarious game of Apples to Apples this weekend in which these phrases came into play, I decided to finally look into the etymology of these sayings.

Dressed to the Nines
AskOxford says that the first recorded instance of "to the nines" comes from a Robert Burns poem in 1793, and is later recorded in a slang dictionary in 1859. The Phrase Finder (UK) points out that the link between material and clothing (9 yards of material for expensive clothing, for example) is weak, but that the number nine has always been used as a superlative. And WiseGeek says "anything is possible whenever dictionaries throw down the etymological gauntlet known as 'origin unknown.'" The phrase could have originally been "dressed to the eyes" for all we know! Today, the phrase means to be dressed most smartly or flamboyantly.

At Sixes and Sevens
The Phrase Finder points out the earliest known instance of the phrase comes from Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde, and was a phrase used in gambling language at the time meaning to risk all your fortune on the highest numbers of the dice. Of course, the highest numbers then and now would have been five and six, but the Online Etymology Dictionary says that the phrase could have morphed over the years from the French cinque and sice to sixes and sevens. Today the phrase means to be in a state of total confusion and frustration.

Basically, Eva is all stressed up with nowhere to go. And I need a new earworm. I don't want to be singing songs from Evita any longer than I have been!

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