From John Le Carré's Smiley's People:

“What section are you in, Mostyn?” Smiley asked him.

Oddbins, sir.” He crouched, level to the table, displaying an Asian suppleness. “Since your day, actually, sir. It’s a sort of operational pool. Mainly probationers waiting for overseas postings.”

I think Oddbins is a term coined by Le Carré. But what does that mean exactly?

1 Answer 1


Oddbins is a chain of discount wine retail stores in the UK, founded in 1963. The name reflects the store’s original business of retailing unsold oddments from wine-bins.

oddment, n. 1. An odd article or piece; a remnant. Usually in plural: odds and ends, miscellaneous items; esp. (in retailing) articles from broken or incomplete sets offered for sale at a reduced price.

bin, n. 3.a. A partitioned stand or rack designed for storing bottles of wine on their sides in a wine cellar. Also: wine from a particular stand or rack of this type.

Oxford English Dictionary.

So the nickname “Oddbins” for the Circus’s operational pool jokingly reflects the idea that it is staffed by people who have not yet found permanent postings, and so are available at a discount.

  • 1
    Sadly it appears that your second word probably needs to be "was"
    – AakashM
    Commented Apr 22 at 13:19

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