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    • Join Date: Jan 2006
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    some numerical idioms

    Could you help me to explain how and why English people use some numerical idioms such as third time's the charm, aces & eights, seventy times seven, ninth circle of hell, two can live as cheaply as one, and baby makes three. Thanks alot

  1. Editor,
    English Teacher
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      • British English
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      • UK
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    • Join Date: Nov 2002
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    Re: some numerical idioms

    We ive with numbers all around us, so it is no woder that they come into our idioms. 'Baby makes three'- you have a couple (2) and baby literally makes three. We use the numbers that are in our world in the idioms we use. In traditional Christianity, as seen in Dante's poem Hell, the were nine circles, where people were punished in different ways, with the ninth being the worst.

  2. rewboss's Avatar

    • Join Date: Feb 2006
    • Posts: 1,552

    Re: some numerical idioms

    "Third time lucky" is what I always used to say.

    In past times, great importance was attached to certain numbers. 3, for example, represented the earth while 4 represented heaven; 3+4=7 and so 7 represented completion and perfection.

    I guess "aces and eights" must come from a particular card game, or perhaps they were put together because they sound similar. "Seventy times seven" comes from the Bible: Peter asks Jesus how many times he should forgive his brother -- is seven times enough? -- and Jesus replies, "Not seven times, but seventy times seven times" (an alternative translation is "77 times").

    Some others are just astute observations. "Two can live as cheaply as one" may not exactly be true, but it is certainly true that two people living together generally spend much less money than two people living separately.

  3. Casiopea's Avatar

    • Join Date: Sep 2003
    • Posts: 12,970

    Re: some numerical idioms

    Welcome, ngongrom.

    Additionally, why not try out this site?

    By the way, the term "Dead man's hand" refers to a pair of aces and a pair of eights - the hand that Wild Bill Hickok is fabled to have been holding when he was killed at apoker table in 1876.

    In the game of poker, as previously mentioned, aces & eights refers to a pair of aces and 3 worthless cards. It's as if saying, "Aces [which are excellent cards] and nothing [but worthless eights] to go with the pair." That is, aces & eights is a worthless poker hand.


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