Is "add two and two" an idiom?

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"Somebody Stupefied a Death Eater on top of the Tower after Dumbledore died. There were also two broomsticks up there. The Ministry can add two and two, Harry."

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

I deduce that "add two and two" is a variant of put two and two together. If so, any reason why it's been "two and two", not "one and one", etc. "One and one" looks more simple.

dan

Posted 2019-08-12T14:14:48.440

Reputation: 12 255

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I think "two and two" is used as it's just generally considered the easiest non trivial sum. Similar to the phrase when 2 + 2 = 5

– Bee – 2019-08-12T14:23:46.380

1What @Bee said. To my mind, to be *able to add two and two* (or to *know two and two make four) - plus the pejorative negated versions (not* to be able to do the trivial sum) would be the "original" forms. Being able to *put two and two together* is a later derived "idiomatic" usage (that actually usually refers specifically to drawing conclusions from *two single things* both occurring, not two pairs of things). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2019-08-12T14:34:54.893

...compare also *He knows how many beans make five* (he's not a complete idiot; in fact, he might be reasonably smart). But all such expressions are inherently "slangy", and may vary across different (geographical or social) linguistic subsets of the worldwide Anglophone population.

– FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2019-08-12T14:38:15.860

No answers