Number Whimsy

June 16, 2014

One for the money.
Two for the show.
Three to get ready.
Four to go.


One for the road

Back to square one

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush

Like two peas in a pod

Stand on your own two feet

Two’s company; three’s a crowd

Three time’s the charm

Three sheets to the wind

Three dollar bill

Four corners of the earth

Take five

High five

Six of one, half dozen of the other

At sixes and sevens

Seventh heaven

Seven year itch


Behind the eight ball

Cloud nine

Dressed to the nines

The whole nine yards

A stitch in time saves nine

I bet each of these sayings have interesting back stories, reasons why they’ve become part of our common language.  For example, there is some controversy about the origins of “three sheets to the wind,” which some attribute to sailing lore, and others to the drunken, out-of-balance sheets on windmills.


What number sayings have I forgotten to list here?

I was pleased to come across a book of lists compiled by Liza Kirwin, the curator of manuscripts at the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art.  The book is such a clever idea.  As the title says, the book includes “To-Do” lists, illustrated Inventories, collected thoughts and other enumerations by a wide selection of artists.

Liza Kirwin's book of artists' lists

Paul Branson's alphabetical list of animals (from the book)

My life seems to be governed by lists.  Here is a list from my current day book/journal.  I’m not sure if I’ll ever use it for anything, but it was fun making the list:

List of Sayings using Numbers

  • one for the road
  • back to square one
  • a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
  • like two peas in a pod
  • stand on your own two feet
  • two’s company; three’s a crowd
  • three time’s the charm
  • three sheets to the wind
  • three-ring circus
  • three dollar bill
  • four corners of the earth
  • take five
  • high five
  • at sixes and sevens
  • eighty-six
  • six of one and half a dozen of the other
  • seventh heaven
  • seven year itch
  • twenty-four seven
  • behind the eight ball
  • cloud nine
  • dressed to the nines
  • the whole nine yards
  • a stitch in time, saves nine

Can you think of more?