arsy-tansy, revisited

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.

2 Responses to “arsy-tansy, revisited”

  1. Jessica

    I don’t know the word “arsy,” but I do know the word “arse,” which means “ass.” I think I would translate “arsy-versy” as “ass reversed,” or “ass backwards.”

    • -Ed.

      I agree with Jessica on this one—arsy versy seems likely connected to vice versa through the jokey pronunciation/spelling vicey versey.



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