Finding a pair

A worldful of odd socks
Black and beige and yellow and tan
So many, so scattered
You would think it impossible
That any sock might ever find
A pair with a matching sole
Knitted from the same stuff
To curl up and grow shabby with.
And yet, the mathematicians tell us
It’s easier than it can appear
For each sock can be half
Of more than one matching pair
And sometimes matching perfectly
Matters far less than you think.

This week’s prompt at Weekend Wordsmith reminded me of the following maths puzzle:

In your sock drawer, you have 10 blue socks, 12 white socks, and 6 red socks that are all mixed together. It is dark and you can’t see the colors of your socks.

What is the least number of socks that you have to pull out to make sure that you have a matching pair?



The answer is four. If you have pulled out three socks, the only way you will not have a matching pair is if you have one sock of each colour. And so the fourth sock you pull out must have the same colour as one of the socks you’ve already pulled out…

It hadn’t occurred to me to see this as a metaphor until I came across this prompt!

The photo is SPT: new warm socks, originally uploaded to flickr by yumptatious.


7 responses to “Finding a pair

  1. Welcome to Weekend Wordsmith. I hope you’ll play again. I especially like your last thought:

    “And sometimes matching perfectly
    Matters far less than you think.”

    I have your link posted now:

  2. hmm,
    it makes me wonder how many more do I have to try to find the right pair.
    after all it is an “worldful of odd socks” not just 10 potential pairs…
    loved the meataphor.

  3. Yes, there are a lot more different colours and patterns of sock out there, and some of them are very odd indeed… but then there are also a lot more socks, which gives me hope this principle will still apply.

    Good luck finding a suitable partner to share a sock-drawer with!

  4. this is why all my socks are black…..

  5. Juliet – actually most of my socks are black too. Of course there’s always variation of length, texture, cuff thickness and how-often-it’s-been-washed-and-got-faded…. as I say, matching perfectly is overrated!

  6. This is fantastic! I love love love it! Thank you for sharing!

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