What Are The Odds


"What are the odds?"


"This coincidence is very unusual. / This coincidence is so

unusual that I think it is not a coincidence. It is destiny."


People use this expression to comment on an unusual occurrence.

If the occurrence is also a coincidence, people may use this expression

to interpret a situation as destined. This expression is usually stand alone,

but it may also be followed by a noun clause.


Shirley:    "James, Shirley! What are you doing in New York?"

James:      "Um... I came for work and I just bumped into Roxanne.”

Roxanne: “Uh... yeah. I'm in town for a workshop and we just bumped into each other at lunch."

Shirley:     "New York is so big! It's amazing we all just bumped into each other! What are the odds?


1. Literature Reference: Author Steve Almond uses this expression in a 2009 short story for Tin House ("Donkey Greedy, Donkey Gets Punched") to have the antagonist gloat at the downfall of the protagonist: "And you know the crazy thing? Alcohol has the exact same physiological effect on me. Imagine that! What are the odds, doc?" 

2. Media Reference #1: Journalist Kim Velsey uses this expression to quote a source interviewed for a September 2nd, 2019 article for The New York Times (" The Studio That Turned Out to Be a Family Heirloom"). The article describes a woman who coincidentally rented the same apartment her mother had, approximately 40 years later: “'I was astonished,'” she said. 'What are the odds that Lindsay would be looking at the apartment I lived in 41 years ago?'” (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/02/realestate/the-studio-that-turned-out-to-be-a-family-heirloom.html)

3. Media Reference #2: Journalist Rachel Martin uses this expression in an April 20th, 2018 NPR piece ("Couple Has 14 Kids — All Boys") to describe a growing family: "A lot of people choose not to find out the sex of their baby beforehand because they want to be surprised. Same for the Schwandt family in Rockford, Michigan. They were holding out for a girl, which would have been a shocker considering they already had 13 boys. The new baby was born Wednesday. And, surprise, it was a boy. Fourteen boys in one family. Zero girls. What are the odds? .02 percent, according to one genetics counselor." (https://www.npr.org/2018/04/20/604241512/couple-has-14-kids-all-boys) (At 22 seconds into the broadcast.)  

4. Media Reference #3: Mark Sheppard's character of "Crowley" uses this expression in season 12, episode 3 of the television series Supernatural ("The Foundry") to persuade another character to team up with him: "Bumping into each other, working the same leads, What are the odds, Cassie? Fate brought us together." (At 12 minutes and 9 seconds into the episode. Originally aired October 27th, 2016.)  

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