Many’s the fiver I’ve took off him on a sure thing what come unstuck

mO_ok

Senior Member
Lithuanian
Hello,

This time I have a whole sentence that bothers me - I have no idea what it means. It comes form 'Gently Through the Mill' by Alan Hunter. A criminal (a bank clerk) is caught and here is one statement about his character:

‘Always saw him at Bath and the meetings round that way. Quiet sort of a cove, though he dressed up to
the nines. Many’s the fiver I’ve took off him on a sure thing what come unstuck.’

The action is taking place in England during the '50s. Could you paraphrase the sentence, please?
 
  • dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    Many is the five-pound bet that I have won from him, on something that was called "a sure thing" but things changed.
     

    mO_ok

    Senior Member
    Lithuanian
    Thank you, dojibear! However, I do not quite grasp this part: Many is the five-pound bet. What does 'Many' stand here for?
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Many is the fiver: There have been many five-pound notes. (A fairly standard way of saying it, unlike some of the other things in the sentence: Many is the day I have done that.)
     

    mO_ok

    Senior Member
    Lithuanian
    I was not familiar with 'many' in this type of usage o_O Thank you, entagledbank!
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    It's an idiom.

    "Many's the time I've told him not to walk along the edge of the cliff!"
    "Many's the woman who's thought she could reform a man once he married her."
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    I think you have seen this meaning of "many". Here are some simpler wordings:
    - I have won 5 pounds, many times.
    - This has happened many times.
    - I have won many bets.

    The way it is worded, with "many" coming first, is unusual. That part is new.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    In AE it sounds old-fashioned. When I hear it, I imagine a man talking to friends at a pub.

    So I think HG is correct -- it is less common in AE.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    It sounds like something that is used in sayings but not everyday life where I've lived. I would be completely unsurprised to read it in a book but more surprised to hear it in everyday conversation, unless someone was waxing poetic.

    A way I might hear it.

    - Have you ever been to the Grand Canyon?
    - Many a time. I used to live in Arizona.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    For English learners here..."waxing poetic" means "speaking in a fancy way", like a man in a pub who has an "audience" of several listeners.
     
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