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Old 01-04-2005, 04:07 PM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: Texas, USA
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Meaning of "sixes and sevens and nines"

This could be a Cafe Society question (apologies -- please move if appropriate) because it deals with a song lyric, but it might also be a general phrase and I'm trying to find its meaning. The song is The Rolling Stones' "Tumblin' Dice" and there's a passage that goes:

"Honey, got no money, I'm all sixes and sevens and nines."

What do the sixes, sevens and nines represent? The song has a strong gambling theme, but I can't figure the correlation. Are they rolls of the dice? What significance do 6's, 7's and 9's have in craps, if any? Are they ranks of cards? Or is it some other gambling slang? Or did Mick and the boys just make something up that would sound cool?


Old 01-04-2005, 04:44 PM
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Location: Davis, California
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Totally out there, but in Chinese culture the number "8" is thought to be lucky and to bring money and fortune. Not sure if that's what he's talking about, but it sorta fits, yeah?
Old 01-04-2005, 04:50 PM
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"Sixes and sevens" is a British expression meaning "a state of total confusion." I have no idea where it comes from, and only know it from Tim Rice's lyric in Don't Cry for Me Argentina: Alhtough she's dressed up to the nines at sixes and sevens with you.
Old 01-04-2005, 04:55 PM
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The song has a strong gambling theme, but I can't figure the correlation. Are they rolls of the dice? What significance do 6's, 7's and 9's have in craps, if any? Are they ranks of cards?
Rules of craps

No cards involved.
Old 01-04-2005, 06:05 PM
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It's not a craps reference, or at least not a direct one. In craps, you win if you roll a 7 on the first roll. If you roll certain other numbers (incl. 6 or 9), then you win if you roll that number again before hitting 7. So 7 is the most important number and can be either really good or really bad, while 6 and 9 aren't necessarily important in any given pass, although if they come up once it's very good to hit them again.

Old 01-04-2005, 06:09 PM
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'Sixes and sevens" - probably from the old dice game hazard, but certainly older than Chaucer.
Old 01-05-2005, 11:24 AM
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GorillaMan beat me to the punch, but here's the answer anyway.

"At sixes and sevens" means a confused mess. The expression derives from an old dice game called hazard, and was originally “to sit on cinque and sice” (five and six), in which five and six were the riskiest die throws to bet on. Anyone wagering on these numbers was thought of as a fool, thus the link to the modern sense of confusion. At some point in time, well after the game of hazard ceased to be played, the expression changed to “at sixes and sevens”. Seven is, of course, impossible to role on a single standard die, which would make it an even more foolish number to bet on.

The expression is also used in the song Fair Moon, To Thee I Sing from H.M.S. Pinafore.

As to the nines, you're on your own.
Pax et Bonum,


...Because you can't strike a Marquis de Queensbury pose and announce "I'm familiar with the art of fisticuffs!" in front of a bunch of lumberjacks and not expect to get your butt kicked. - Marlitharn
Old 05-17-2011, 03:14 AM
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sixes and sevens and nines

I heard the expression in a movie made in 1938. The movie is "Jezebel" starring Bette Davis & Henry Fonda. In the movie Henry Fonda plays a banker, and stated "Things are all sixes and sevens down at the bank". Meaning in this case a 'state of confusion' was at the bank.
Old 05-17-2011, 07:15 AM
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So we've got 6 and 7, but what about 9?
Old 05-17-2011, 07:43 AM
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I agree with the "six and sevens", my British parents used the term. As to the nine, it may simply have worked in the song, or perhaps is a weak reference to an inside straight. In principle an inside straight would have one more card (5 or 10), but a straight with a hole in the middle is pretty poor odds.
Old 05-17-2011, 10:36 AM
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Give wikipedia "sixes and sevens" years and they'll be an article on it

Best. Zombie. Thread. Timing. Ever.
Old 05-17-2011, 06:11 PM
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"At sixes and sevens" is a British expression. Bassically it means "at odds" (if that isn't too much of a Britishism). I thik the "nines" comes from the expression "dressed to the nines" which most usually means dressed extremely smartly.

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