At sixes and sevens
gjay
What does the phrase "At sixes and sevens" mean? I think it comes from Thornton Wilder's play "By the Skin of Our Teeth".
AdSumADS
See: http://www.quinion.com/words/qa/qa-six1.htm
AtoZ
Those interested in the history of London's Livery Companies might care to check
http://www.englishorigins.com/liverycompanies.html from which the following quote is taken.


"After many years of fierce dispute, an order of precedence for Livery Companies was finally settled in 1515, starting with Mercers. As a result of controversy over the sixth place, the Merchant Taylors and the Skinners change places every year. (This gave rise to the saying "at sixes and sevens".) The first twelve Companies are known as the Great Twelve. "


Although the first mention of the London guilds is in 1130 it seems likely that the dice game mentioned in the previous post predates the use for the Livery Companies. But the use of the phrase in The City may have kept it going through the 16th and seventeenth centuries!! -- who knows...?

AtoZ
Here's another theory, taken from:

A Dictionary of Modern Slang, Cant, and Vulgar Words By a London Antiquary.
Second Edition, London, John Camden Hotten, Picadilly, 1860.

"SIXES AND SEVENS, articles in confusion are said to be all SIXES and SEVENS. The Deity is mentioned in the Towneley Mysteries as He that "sett all on seven," i.e., set or appointed everything in seven days. A similar phrase at this early date implied confusion and disorder, and from these, Halliwell thinks, has been derived the phrase "to be at SIXES AND SEVENS." A Scotch correspondent, however, states that the phrase probably came from the workshop, and that amongst needle makers when the points and eyes are "heads and tails" ("heeds and thraws"), or in confusion, they are said to be SIXES AND SEVENS, because those numbers are the sizes most generally used, and in the course of manufacture have frequently to be distinguished."

Found at http://www.havemann.com/modern_slang.html

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