Green’s Dictionary of Slang

arsey-varsey phr.

also arce-versa, arsey-versey, arsie-versie, arsy-versy, assy-turvy
[arse n. (1) + sfx -y + redup.; on model of SE vice-versa; prior use before mid-16C was SE]

1. upside down, topsy-turvy, back-to-front.

R. Taverner (trans.) Proverbes or Adages by Erasmus (1569) 58: Ye set the cart before the horse. [...] cleane contrarily, and arsy-versy as they say .
[UK]Udall (trans.) Erasmus’ Apophthegms (1564) Bk I 6: Many persons doe arsee versee, in that thei take the losse of a little money, more greuously at the harte, then the losse of a frende.
[UK]Tom Tyler and his Wife (1661) in Farmer (1908) 43: She looked very arsy-versy at her first coming in.
[UK]Holinshed Chronicles (Ireland) II 26/2: The estate of that flourishing towne was turned arsie versie, topside the other waie.
[UK]Marston Dutch Curtezan III iv: Lord these boyes doe things arsie varsie.
in Estienne et al World of Wonders 44: Both he and his fellowes deale with the Latin as they thinke good, vsing words arsie-versie.
Davies of Hereford Eclogue Between yong Willy and old Wernocke 19: Willy, why lig’st thou (man) so wo-be-gon? [...] Is some conteck ’twixt thy loue and thee? Or, else some loue-warke arsie-varsie tane?
[UK]Webster Devil’s Law-Case IV ii: May it please the Court, I am but a yong thing, And was drawne arsie varsie into the businesse.
[UK]Urquhart (trans.) Gargantua and Pantagruel (1927) I Bk I 43: This little lecher was always groping his nurses and governesses, upside down, arsiversy, topsiturvy, harri bourriquet.
[UK] ‘Bum-Fodder’ Rump Poems and Songs (1662) II 56: ’Tis a pittifull passe you men of the Sword / Have brought yourselves to, that the Rump’s your Lord, / And Arsie Versie must be the word.
[UK]J. Ray Proverbs (2nd edn) 349: We have in our language many the like [...] arsy versy, kim kam, hub bub, crawly mauly.
J.P.M.D. Mystic Divinity 24: I fai the whol frame of the World [...] to circumgyrate, to wheel, whirl and turn round about in a Topsi-Turvi (excuse the expression) as if everi man went the wrong waie to work; All arsi-varsi.
[UK] ‘Jenny Cromwells Complaint against Sodomy’ Harleian Mss. 73I5.226: Till you came in and with your Reformation, / Turn’d all things Arsy Versy in the nation.
[UK]Glass Window, or, Bog-house Miscellany B2: Dean's Yard, Westminster, in Charcoal, on a Wall, a Verse to be read upwards or downwards or arsey-versey the same.
[UK]Norfolk Chron. 20 July 4/3: Definitions of words, phrases, etc. which Dr Johnson and other learned lexicographers have thought beneath their notice [...] Topsey-turvey, Arsey-versy, An inversion of capitals and fundamentals.
[UK]R. Nares Gloss. (1888) I 36: †arsie-versie. upside down.
[UK]Marryat Peter Simple (1911) 293: You observe, Terence, that I just said everything contrary and arce versa, as they call it.
P. Thompson Hist. and Antiquities Boston 698: Arsy varsy. — Heels over-head; wrong end forward. ‘Vice-vercy’.
[UK]Derbyshire Times 26 July 5/2: Arsey-Varsey. Head over heels (derived from the Fr. ‘à renverse à revers’.
[UK]‘Walter’ My Secret Life (1966) XI 2198: We laid pell mell on the bed together, topsy-turby, — arsy-versy, and any how and in all sorts of ways.
[UK]G.F. Northall Warwickshire Word-Book 12: Arsy-versy. Topsy-turvy, upside down.
[Aus]D. Niland Shiralee 89: It had an arsy-versy look about it to him.
[US]I. Doig Eng. Creek 247: All his haystacks are gonna tip assy-turvy before winter.

2. head-over-heels; usu. in phr. fall arsey-varsey, fall head-over-heels.

[UK]J. Dunton Postboy Robb’d 173: Go to, (quoth River) let us not enter Rome, that is, not into a Discourse of arsey-versey Love [F&H].
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[US]H. Rawson Dict. of Invective (1991) 26: ass over teakettle. Upside down, head over heels; arse over turkey in British English, or arsy varsy.

3. contrary, perverse, preposterous.

[UK]R. Brome Eng. Moor III ii: It is the Arsivarsiest Aufe that ever crept into the world.
[UK] in Bailey Universal Etym. Eng. Dict. n.p.: arsy-versey, topsy-turvy, preposterously, perversely without order.