Back in 2012, I wrote an entry about encountering the word arsy-tansy in The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, and discovering that that term didn’t exist anywhere else.
Just now, I came across the word arsy-versy in an Anthony Boucher story, “The Chronokinesis of Jonathan Hull.” (“The disturbingly arsy-versy normal world…”) It turns out that arsy-versy means basically the same thing as topsy-turvy.
I had a moment of thinking that perhaps the line in the Le Carré book had been a typo for arsy-versy, but that word doesn’t make a lot of sense in the context where arsy-tansy appeared. So this new development probably doesn’t solve the mystery. But it does make me wonder if there are other arsy- words.