Out of Sorts

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Out of Sorts : Phrases


Mildly unwell; not in one's usual health or state of mind.



Since at least the 17th century 'sorts' has been the name of the letters used by typographers. This usage is referred to in Notes on a Century of Typography at the University Press Oxford 1693–1794 and is nicely defined in Joseph Moxon's Mechanick exercises, or the doctrine of handy-works - printing, 1683:

"The Letters... in every Box of the Case are... called Sorts in Printers and Founders Language; Thus a is a Sort, b is a Sort."

To be 'out of sorts' would clearly be unwelcome to a typesetter. That terminology could be the source of the phrase in its current meaning. The above citations are pre-dated by one from Samuel Ward, which makes no mention of the print trade. That in his The life of faith in death,1621:

"I wonder... to see one... that knowes all must worke for the best, to be at any time out of tune, or out of sorts."
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