Heads or Tails
Guess whether the coin tossed up will come down with headside
uppermost or not. The side not bearing the head has various devices,
sometimes Britannia, sometimes George and the Dragon, sometimes a harp,
sometimes the royal arms, sometimes an inscription, etc. These devices
are all included in the word tail, meaning opposite to the head. The
ancient Romans used to play this game, but said, “Heads or ships.”
“Cum puerl denarios in sublime jactantes, `capita aut navia,' lusu
teste vetustatis exclamant.” —Macrobius Saturnalia, i. 7.
Neither head nor tail.
Nothing consistent. “I can make neither head nor tail of what you
I cannot bolt the matter to the bran.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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