Take a Word.... TWO: Etymology, History, Idioms & a Poem

Number Two

Lucky number 2?  Playing cards: the 2s of diamonds, clubs, hearts and spades
Lucky number 2? Playing cards: the 2s of diamonds, clubs, hearts and spades | Source

Etymology of 'two'

Old English twā (feminine and neuter) of Germanic origin; related to Dutch twee and German zwei, from an Indo-European root shared by Latin and Greek duo.

also, though similar:

Old English twa ‘two’ fem. and neuter from of twegen ‘two’ from Proto-Germanic twa (cognates: Old Saxon and Old Frisian twene, twa, Old Norse tveir, tvau, Dutch twee, Old High German zwene, zwo, German zwei, Gothic twai), from PIE duwo, variant of dwo ‘two’ (cognates: Sanskrit…Greek….Latin… Old Welsh…. Lithuanian… Old Church Slavonic…, first element in Hittite ta-ugash ‘two years old’).


Not Just a Number

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Pitch no.2 on the CampsiteDominoes: single two & double two; Two pips on a Die
Pitch no.2 on the Campsite
Pitch no.2 on the Campsite | Source
Dominoes: single two & double two; Two pips on a Die
Dominoes: single two & double two; Two pips on a Die | Source

Definition


noun: two;

plural noun: twos

  • cardinal number
  • equivalent to the sum of one and one; one less than three
  • a group or unit of two people or things (i.e. two years old - 'he is two'; 'two years ago')
  • two o’clock "the pub closed at two"
  • a size of garment or other merchandise denoted by two
  • a playing card or domino with two pips


archaic: twain


Love-seat (Face-to-face)

French tête-à-tête, c 1800 & Model popular in 1920s USA
French tête-à-tête, c 1800 & Model popular in 1920s USA | Source

Unexpected Paths

This word ‘two’; where does that lead you? I find that when I think of a word it takes over, leading me down unexpected paths, veering off at a tangent, sometimes taking me by the scruff of the neck and forcing me to places unknown.

I was led off to thinking about ‘twain’, the archaic version of ‘two’. It took me to Mark Twain (was he a twin? yes! how thrilling! (thanks Jodah), the sixth of seven children!) and to ‘never the twain shall meet’. My lateral thinking then turned right, to find ‘couple’, ‘twin’ (’Is that from twain?’ I asked myself. No, it’s not.), ‘love-seat’, ‘pair(s)’, ‘double’, ‘tandem’…. I’m sure your brain has thrown you a few more.

That got me side-tracked into the origins and background information connected with these ‘extras’, some of which are mentioned, some left for more hubs. See where words can take you? If you’re plagued by writers’ block, just stick a pin in the dictionary and off you go gambolling down another path of your imagination before you know it!


Using idioms in text

It's fun to use idioms or even to make up your own. Although keeping the flow isn't easy when you have to stick to given phrases, you can chop and change, experiment with different rhymes and if you're lucky something acceptable will write itself.

The reason I chose 'two' for this edition of my series was via John Hansen (Jodah) who wrote a hub referring to number six. I mentioned in the comments that my favourite number was 2 and he said he'd be interested to find out why. So....

The following is a poem showing some idioms I knew and a few I found. I enjoyed concocting this, using the story of a couple who loved to dance but had an 'unwelcome' neighbour.


Two can Play at that Game!

Dancing the Night Away
Dancing the Night Away | Source
Was she really this stupid?!
Was she really this stupid?! | Source
Does this Little Owl give two hoots?  Probably not! Attribution: By Athene_noctua_(portrait).jpg: Trebol-a derivative work:Stemonitis (Athene_noctua_(portrait).jpg) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Does this Little Owl give two hoots? Probably not! Attribution: By Athene_noctua_(portrait).jpg: Trebol-a derivative work:Stemonitis (Athene_noctua_(portrait).jpg) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons | Source

It Takes Two

Well there they were, two of a kind,

like two peas in a pod.

Though they were short of a bob* or two,

they weren’t really that odd.

They’d saved a bit and bought a house,

set in a two-way street.

It didn’t take long before they could

stand on their own two feet.

They liked to dance and we all know

that it takes two to tango.

Then there’s that song, yes, ‘It takes Two’,

by whom? I think you know.

There was a neighbour, blonde bombshell,

who thought he’d be a two-timer,

but she was wrong, ‘cause he was strong,

knew a thing or two about her.

She was two-faced and, truth to tell,

as thick as two short planks,

put two and two together then

come up with five! No thanks!

She didn’t realise that no man can

safely serve two masters,

thought that she could turn his head,

pin him to the rafters!

She had to accept that he was true

to his wife, but then pretended

that she didn’t give two hoots for him

and there, he thought, it ended.


Two Step?

How can I dance like this?  Two left feet or what?
How can I dance like this? Two left feet or what? | Source
A piece of 2 x 4
A piece of 2 x 4 | Source

... but It Didn't!

When back at dancing, partners changed,

one bloke had two left feet.

Wife tried to dance the two-step

with this guy, then took a seat,

only to find that husband danced

with bombshell from next door.

Was he really two-timing her?

He’d feel a two-by-four.

It’s true that there are two sides

to every story told

and two could play at that game,

let’s see how it’ll unfold.

There were no two ways about it,

the neighbour had to face

being brought down a peg or two,

facing a disgrace.


In Two Minds or The Lesser of Two Evils??

What would she do?

So wife decided that she would

kill two birds with one stone

and left them both together saying

‘Two hours, then I’ll be home.’

Husband was stuck, was in two minds

about how to get blonde out.

He didn’t want to cheat on his wife,

two wrongs don’t make a right.

In two shakes of a lamb’s tail

he’d plied her with strong drink.

Eyes like two burnt holes in the snow,

she couldn’t even think.

He was in two minds where to put her,

couldn’t do her harm.

He guided her straight to a chair,

just dragged her by the arm.

In the end he decided that

the lesser of two evils

was to lock her in the coal-shed

though it made him feel a weasel.


The traditional English meal.
The traditional English meal. | Source

Happy ever after

The upshot of it all was that

these two, husband and wife,

were expecting a little addition to

their warm and cosy life.

She was now eating for two,

they were no more on edge.

Each evening both sat down to eat

their usual meat and two veg.

Though like a dog with two tails,

he was a little bothered

because, just as they say, it’s true

two’s company, three’s a crowd.

But, true to form, it wasn’t long

before all three were happy.

Though, one step forward, two steps back,

he hated changing nappies!

To dancing they returned once more,

the tango was in fashion.

The two of them were ballroom stars,

but little son their passion.


*bob - old British word for a shilling (now 10p but worth much less!)


A Few More

a game of two halves - referring originally to football, now meaning that circumstances have changed suddenly.

a game that two can play - someone can get their own back

two sides of the same coin - similar in content and/or value, but difficult to choose from

hasn’t got two half-pennies to rub together - is poor

can’t be in two places at the same time - shouldn’t try to do too much

put up two fingers (gave him the two fingers) - a rude gesture!

it’s a two-bit show - not a good one, not entertaining, cheap

fall between two stools - can’t make up your mind

lesser of two evils - have to decide from a choice of two, neither of which is good.


Explanations

Just in case you didn’t know: ‘It Takes Two’, the song, was a hit for Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston.

‘Two peas in a pod’ - either looking alike or having the same interests.

‘Two-fisted’ is from 1774 (American English); aggressive, hard-hitting, or literally using or held by both hands. British English tends to use ‘two-handed’, as in ‘two-handed backhand’ in tennis.

‘Two cheers for….’, expressing qualified enthusiasm, was first recorded in 1951 in EM Forster’s title “Two Cheers for Democracy.” These days we do ‘three’ cheers, so we’re obviously more inclined to generosity.

‘Two-dimensional’ is recorded from 1883; the figurative sense of ‘lacking substance or depth’ is attested from 1934.

A 'two-by-four' is a piece of wood 2" by 4", a standard British measurement.


Tuppeny Bit!

Two New Pence, British currency (new since we changed to decimal!)
Two New Pence, British currency (new since we changed to decimal!) | Source

Derivatives

‘twain’ - the archaic version of 'two', used in the phrase 'never the twain shall meet', meaning they'll never agree because they don't wish to, or they'll agree to differ, or they'll never physically meet due to impossibility.

‘tuppence’, ‘two-penny bit’ (tuppenny bit): I don’t give tuppence for him! In other words he's not worth anything. The reference is to ‘two pennies’, for which the British still have a coin.


Tea for Two

Tea for Two with a Slice of Cake - yummy! (attribution: By Nicubunu (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)
Tea for Two with a Slice of Cake - yummy! (attribution: By Nicubunu (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons) | Source

Used in a Song: 'Tea for Two'

'Tea for two and two for tea,

Me for you and you for me alone,

We could raise a family,

a boy for you, a girl for me,

Can’t you see how happy we could be?'

‘Tea for Two’ is a song from the 1925 musical ‘No, No, Nanette’. It’s a duet sung by Nanette and Tom in Act II as they imagine their future.


2nd May - 21 x ???
2nd May - 21 x ??? | Source
2 Fairfield Crescent, Hurstpierpoint, Sussex, England; my childhood bungalow that I loved
2 Fairfield Crescent, Hurstpierpoint, Sussex, England; my childhood bungalow that I loved | Source
Fairfield, 2 Chestnut Lane, Ashcott, Somerset, England; another bungalow I loved
Fairfield, 2 Chestnut Lane, Ashcott, Somerset, England; another bungalow I loved | Source
The Two of Us
The Two of Us | Source
Number 2 made into a Swan
Number 2 made into a Swan | Source

Why is Two my Favourite Number?

  • I was born on the 2nd of May
  • Number 2 Fairfield Crescent was the number of the house I lived in for most of my childhood in Sussex
  • Number 2 was my favourite house I bought as an adult, which I called ‘Fairfield’ after the other one, because it was in the country and was also a bungalow (meaning, in British English, the building only has the ground floor and possibly a loft)
  • One of my granddaughters also has her birthday on the 2nd, though not in the same month
  • ’The two of us’ has a nice ring to it; it’s loving, friendly and cosy.

Two has been a lucky number for me; it used to be one of my lottery numbers (now I have random dips once in a while) and is the number I use if I’m tempted to gamble once in a while! I always wanted to go to a horse race and when I eventually went to Ascot (in Perth, Western Australia) I won a small amount using number 2.

Two is a neat number. There are lots of things for two people:

  • two-seater sofas,
  • a love-seat or sweetheart seat,
  • table for two,
  • meals for two

Things come in, or are thought of as in, pairs:

  • two-a-penny,
  • salt & pepper,
  • brother & sister,
  • pen & pencil,
  • mustard & cress,
  • flora & fauna

Then there are opposites, by definition ‘two’ things, such as:

  • black & white;
  • right & wrong;
  • on & off.

You get the idea.

2 is a swan when I’m teaching children how to write numbers with the correct orientation (start with the head, go right, round, down and across).

To me, 2 is pretty, 2 looks like an ear (top) or a nose (bottom).

Put two 2s together, one reversed, and you have a heart

Use it, Experiment, Play & Enjoy!

What rhymes with 'two'? It's a great word for poetry because it offers many choices.

to, too, loo (toilet!), moo, zoo, through, flew, knew, grew, blew, crew, shoe, accrue.....

As with any word, you can have fun using it in many contexts. I hope this has given you a few ideas and that you'll enjoy experimenting with your writing, be it poetry or prose.


Birthdays

Do you have a birthday on the 2nd of a month?

See results without voting

Lucky Numbers

What is your lucky/favourite number?

See results without voting

More by this Author


28 comments

annart profile image

annart 13 months ago from SW England Author

Thanks for your kind comment, Flourish. Glad you enjoyed this.

Ann


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 13 months ago from USA

I'm amazed at how you interwove this into such an interesting story. Entertaining!


Kristen Howe profile image

Kristen Howe 13 months ago from Northeast Ohio

You're very welcome, Ann. I thought it was amusing and interesting. I never heard of garden cress. Thanks for letting me know.


annart profile image

annart 13 months ago from SW England Author

Thanks, Kristen. Glad you liked it. Cress is often called 'garden cress' and it's the seeds that go with mustard; it is akin to watercress.

Thanks for popping in for a read!

Ann


annart profile image

annart 13 months ago from SW England Author

Mihnea: Thanks again! I appreciate your double visit today. Glad you liked this.

Ann


Kristen Howe profile image

Kristen Howe 13 months ago from Northeast Ohio

Ann, this was a fascinating hub about why number two is your favorite number. It was really interesting on where the number comes from. This was very good. As for my "two cents", I love swans, and I guess that cress is referring to watercress?


Mihnea Andreescu profile image

Mihnea Andreescu 13 months ago from Bucharest,Romania

What a linguistic treasure!Great hub!


annart profile image

annart 13 months ago from SW England Author

Thank you, Frank! I do try to cram a lot into these as I think just one word needs to be exploited to its full.

Glad you like the series and thanks for the kind words.

Ann


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 13 months ago from Shelton

I love trying to tackle your take a word hubs.. very interesting.. and enjoyable to read.. it takes two.. reads to really get the gist.. don't ever stop doing these..:)


annart profile image

annart 13 months ago from SW England Author

manatita: Thank you for your kind words. Glad you liked the poem too!

It does take a lot of work, as does any hub, but these often just roll because the words give me the ideas. Some rhymes take a bit of sorting but mostly they fall into place!

Your support is appreciated.

Ann


manatita44 profile image

manatita44 13 months ago from london

I don't know how you do it, Ann. Gypsy too, with her musical stories. You both have similar talents. Requires a lot of work, I should imagine.

The beginning was like Wow! Then it got better. Great Love seat and excellent poem! Very educational Hub. In Light and Love.


annart profile image

annart 13 months ago from SW England Author

Thank you Jodah! That's brilliant. I only thought he should be a twin because I would have expected him to use that sort of word as a 'nom de plume'. What I read did not reveal that he was indeed a twin; it merely mentioned that he was one of 7, so I'm thrilled to find out that he did have a twin - I'll amend this accordingly. I just love the team work of this site!


annart profile image

annart 13 months ago from SW England Author

The Welsh is 'dou', the Irish gaelic is 'dhá (adj) and dó (noun), the Scottish is similar, a dhà and dà but pronunciation differs.

Ann


annart profile image

annart 13 months ago from SW England Author

I'm glad you found the read entertaining, Bronwen. The Old Welsh 'duo' was the only Celtic word I came across but I haven't looked up the rest; I'll investigate!

Thanks for the kind comment.

Ann


annart profile image

annart 13 months ago from SW England Author

Thanks, Dora! Glad you enjoyed the read. I appreciate you stopping by and taking the time to comment too.

Ann


Jodah profile image

Jodah 13 months ago from Queensland Australia

I finally got time to come read this hub Ann and wasn't disappointed. I love this series, and thank you for using it to share why number two is your favourite number.

Oh you mentioned "twain" and a reference to Mark Twain not being a twin. He did have a twin named William who died at two weeks of age. If you read my hub:http://hubpages.com/literature/Was-it-Me-Or-Was-It... you will find out more about this through an interview with Mark Twain (Samuel Clemmens) Even though it is quite tongue in cheek, I take that aspect as being true.


BlossomSB profile image

BlossomSB 13 months ago from Victoria, Australia

Your article makes a very interesting read, it's clever and fun and I enjoyed it very much. You mentioned 2 in Welsh, so I'm wondering if it sounds similar in some other Celtic languages, too.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 13 months ago from The Caribbean

Ann, admirable how you wielded the two inside that poem. Especially like the woman's description, "two-faced and . . . as thick as two short planks." Lots more good lines and fun too. Good read!


annart profile image

annart 13 months ago from SW England Author

Thank you, Demas. Glad you had fun with this; great comment!

Ann


Perspycacious profile image

Perspycacious 13 months ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

*If you haven't made a sale "or two" with this one, you should. Greatly enjoyed your cleverness. and I wasn't of two minds on that statement.


annart profile image

annart 13 months ago from SW England Author

Hi, bill! Thank you for continuing to be so supportive. Over-achiever? I don't think I've ever been one of those!

I do enjoy writing this series but am still sensitive as to when it should finish; trouble is there are still thousands of words to go! Oh no!

If it's still fun, I'll just keep going with whatever inspires me.

Hope you're having a sensational Sunday, bill.

Ann


billybuc profile image

billybuc 13 months ago from Olympia, WA

Funny...informative....clever....the Holy Trinity of writing. :) I do love this series, Ann, and you are such a good writer. Dare I say BRILLIANT? I think I dare.

I see you just published another....add to the list of descriptors.....over-achiever. :)

bill


annart profile image

annart 13 months ago from SW England Author

Venkatachari M: Thanks for reading and for your kind comment. Glad you found it entertaining and informative!

Ann


Venkatachari M profile image

Venkatachari M 13 months ago from Hyderabad, India

Beautiful article coining the number "Two". What a great talent in presenting the etymology, history and various uses of the number two. It is very much entertaining and informative. Thanks for all this.


annart profile image

annart 13 months ago from SW England Author

Eric, your comments are always so kind and thoughtful. Of course I write these for you! Isn't it funny how things remind us of events and times?

I don't quite understand 'Really the 'O' is the fem in some places?' Maybe I'm just being as thick as two short planks, but could you enlighten me please?

Love the 'toot' - a much better word, don't you think? Children have such a unique take on everything, don't they?

Good to see you today, Eric.

Ann


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 13 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

What is going on here? This series is just delightful and I feel like you just write them for me, just right. Really the "O" is the fem in some places? Don't tell my young wife but I went and listened to Marvin & Kim bring joy with it takes two. Why is it that I remember the song walking on a country road in Kent County in 1972? God I am old! I have to smile on this -- my five year old cannot count the two without saying toot and giggling. Thank you.


annart profile image

annart 13 months ago from SW England Author

Thank you so much, Mike, for your lovely comment. I was hoping the humour wasn't too cheesy! I like 'amazing curiosity'! I'm happy you found it interesting; I much admire your writing so your praise means a lot to me.

Ann


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 13 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

Hello Ann. You molded the sayings containing 'two' very cleverly with both humor and an amazing curiosity. Those are two sure fire ingredients for an interesting presentation.

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