Thirteen and the odd

Michael Quinion wordseditor at WORLDWIDEWORDS.ORG
Wed Nov 13 11:01:07 UTC 2013

Can anyone help with the early history of this American expression?

A reader found it in a story by Damon Runyon, Melancholy Dane, of 1944.
Runyon describes people waiting to enter a theatre as being dressed "in
the old thirteen and odd."

The first instance I've so far found was in the Cincinnati Enquirer in
November 1908 and the last - apart from Runyon's - was in a short story by
George Ade, The Fable of Mr. Whipple's Dress Suit, syndicated in
newspapers in 1933.

Early examples make clear that the thirteen and the odd was formal evening
wear of white tie and tails, specifically not the Wodehousian soup and
fish, which was black tie or tuxedo.

I have found nothing that indicates where it comes from.

Michael Quinion
Editor, World Wide Words

The American Dialect Society -

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