What does this saying mean? I know it means there's little difference between one and the other, but literally, does it mean something is six of a group that has only six, and half-a-dozen(12/2=6) of the other group which has more than six? Or don't I have to care about its literal meaning?
ex)(It is) six of one and half-a-dozen of the other
I've also met 'It's six and two threes' used with the same meaning.
And a mathematician has been known to say 'It's six of one and 3! of the other' - same meaning, but 'in' joke (people who understand 'factorial' notation get it)
I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.
"six of one and half-a-dozen of the other" is a reply when we want to choose between two things and the person giving the reply is effectively saying that there is no difference between these two choices.
Last edited by BobK; 03-Apr-2012 at 13:39. Reason: Fix typo
"Half a dozen = 6. So "six" and "half a dozen" are two ways of saying the same thing. The expression means that there is no important difference between the alternatives, or the differences offset one another so the net result is the same.
For example, I say to my husband, "Should I take Highway 101 or Highway 280?" and he replies, "It's six of one and a half dozen of the other." He means that I'll get there in about the same amount of time whether I take one road or the other."
This person's answer says much but conveys little.
"Six of one, half a dozen of the other" is a reply to a question that solicits an evaluation between two choices. The person giving the reply is effectively saying "there is no difference between these two choices".