by Liz Walter
My last two posts have covered phrases containing the numbers one and two. Today I am going to look at phrases with some higher numbers. There are a lot of them, so I am just picking out some that I think will be generally useful, but as always, please feel free to suggest others in the comments.
I’ll start with the phrase in the title of this post. If a person, place or situation is at sixes and sevens, it is in a state of confusion or disorganization. The American phrase a three-ring circus also describes a confused situation and emphasizes that a lot of things are happening at the same time:
We only moved in last week, so we’re still at sixes and sevens.
My life felt like a three-ring circus at that time.
Six seems to be a popular number for phrases! If you are talking about which of two people is to blame for something and say it’s six of one and half a dozen of the other, you mean that they are equally at fault. Saying that someone is six feet under is a humorous way of saying that they are dead, and in UK (but not US) English, if something knocks you for six, it surprises and upsets you to a very great degree:
Matt said that Francis insulted him, but if you ask me, it’s six of one and half a dozen of the other.
By the time that tree is grown, we’ll all be six feet under.
The collapse of his company really knocked him for six.
I was on cloud nine when I got the letter offering me the job.
After a delicious meal, we sat in the warm garden. We were in seventh heaven.
I will finish with some very high numbers. If you describe something as the sixty-four thousand dollar question or the million dollar question, you mean that it is a difficult and important question, but nobody knows the answer. If you look/feel (like) a million dollars (UK & US)/bucks (US), you look or feel very attractive. Thanks a million is a strong way of saying thank you. However, it is often used sarcastically:
How do you get your teenagers to talk to you? That’s the sixty-four thousand dollar question!
She was wearing a new dress and she looked a million dollars.
You told Karen I’d cook for everyone? Well, thanks a million!