Thirteen and the odd

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Thu Nov 14 06:14:16 UTC 2013

Here is an extracted excerpt from a book claiming that the phrase is
special-purpose rhyming slang invented by Runyon. Perhaps you've
already seen this in GB?

Title: Runyonese: the mind and craft of Damon Runyon
Author: Jean Wagner
Year: 1965
Page 87
(Google Books snippet view)

[Begin extracted text]
Now, thirteen-and-odd is interpreted by Du Bose as meaning « Formal
evening dress », though the question mark following his interpretation
shows that he was not quite convinced of its correctness himself 16.
Actually, the phrase is a piece of rhyming slang coined by Runyon
himself for the occasion and meaning simply « Todd », the theater in
which the scene takes place. Another example appears toward the end of
« The Brain Goes Home », when Runyon describes the weeping done at The
Brain's funeral by his wife and his three mistresses:

Anybody will tell you that for offhand weeping at a funeral The
Brain's ever-loving wife Charlotte does herself very proud indeed, but
she is not one-two-seven with Doris Clare, Cynthia Harris and Bobby
Baker. In fact, Bobby Baker weeps so loud that there is some talk of
heaving her out of the funeral altogether 17.

This time, This time, Du Bose's guess comes quite close when he
suggests « comparable » as the meaning of one-two-seven, though the
correct ...
[End extracted text]


On Thu, Nov 14, 2013 at 12:14 AM, Douglas G. Wilson <douglas at> wrote:
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Douglas G. Wilson" <douglas at NB.NET>
> Subject:      Re: Thirteen and the odd
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On 11/13/2013 6:01 AM, Michael Quinion wrote:
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>> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>> Poster:       Michael Quinion <wordseditor at WORLDWIDEWORDS.ORG>
>> Organization: World Wide Words
>> Subject:      Thirteen and the odd
>> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> 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.
> --
> I failed to explain this one myself a few years ago:
> ... and I'm sad to say I don't have anything useful to add now.
> But some of the savants have bigger and better databases and other
> resources.
> Popik mentions this in passing (apparently equivalent to "soup-and-fish"
> in at least one instance):
> -- Doug Wilson
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

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