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Mess = 4

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Nares says because “at great dinners … the company was usually arranged into fours.” That four made a mess is without doubt. Lyly expressly says, “Foure makes a messe, and we have a messe of masters” (Mother Bombie, ii. 1). Shakespeare calls the four sons of Henry his “mess of sons” (2 Henry VI., act f. 4); and “Latine,” English, French, and Spanish are called a “messe of tongues” (Vocabulary, 1617). Again, Shakespeare says (Love’s Labour’s Lost, iv. 3), “You three fools lacked me … to make up the mess.” Though four made a mess, yet it does not follow that the “officer’s mess” is so called, as Nares says, because “the company was arranged into fours,” for the Anglo-Saxon mese, like the Latin mensa = table, mes Gothic = dish, whence Benjamin’s mess, a mess of pottage, etc.

⁂ Mess, meaning confusion or litter, is the German mischen, to mix; our word mash.

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Entry taken from Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, edited by the Rev. E. Cobham Brewer, LL.D. and revised in 1895.

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Merry-thought
Merry as a Cricket, or as a Lark, or as a Grig
Merse
Mersenne
Merton (Tommy)
Merton College
Meru
Merveilleuse
Mesmerism
Mesopotamia
Mess = 4
Messalina
Messalina of Germany (The)
Metalogicus
Metals
Metamorphic Rocks
Metamorphic Words
Metaphysics (Greek, after-physics)
Metastasio
Metathesis
Methodical