Six in one hand, half a dozen in the other

Interview and Context

DO – It just means its pretty much, two different ways of doing the same thing, and neither is better than the other.
Interviewer – And it gets used all the time here (in the wood shop).
DO – Yes.
Interviewer – When was the first time you heard it?
DO – I have no idea, like when I was a kid.
Interviewer – Have you always worked in shops?
DO – No, I heard it before. I don’t think it s necessarily a shop only saying, but it is heavily used in shops. Between… (shouts to shop manager, DM) would you agree that between you, me, and (other shop manager) that we say six in one hand, half dozen in the other— like how often do you think we would say that phrase, or a version of?
DM – Ehh, at least weekly?
DO – It, it’s generally used in the planning stage of a thing because we’re like, “How are we doing this, what do you think?” and it’s like, “How do you suggest we like—”
DM – There’s usually two or three ways to accomplish the same thing. At least.
DO – And sometimes there’s an advantage to one way and sometimes there’s not. It’s comparable.


This metaphor is used frequently in this informant’s environment. They mentioned that it is most common in planning stages of set construction, which explains why the regular student workers had not heard the saying (because they are not involved in the planning or designing stages), while set designers and technical directors had heard it.
Because six is equal to a half dozen, the metaphor is saying that there are multiple ways to achieve one goal, and neither way is necessarily better than the other, so it does not much matter which option they choose. However, it also signifies a tiny roadblock caused only by indecision between two equal choices.
The informant doubted it was a saying unique to construction shops, even recalling they had heard it before entering that specific culture, suggesting it was more of a crafting cultural saying than a specific construction one.