Talk:The whole nine yards
|Please don't post your personal memories or speculations to this talk page, unless you can cite a source to back it up|
- 1 Citation
- 2 Origin of the phrase
- 3 etymology
- 4 Brits
- 5 Language log
- 6 The true origin of the expression.
- 7 My nine
- 8 similar expressions
- 9 Horse pulls proposed as origin
- 10 WW2 guesswork
- 11 1940s source
- 12 1933 cite?
- 13 Ballad of Sir Andrew Barton
- 14 Another possible origin
- 15 suggestion
- 16 Cuubic yards?
- 17 9 yards (was) allowed length of Cardinal "Cappa Magna" Robe
- 18 1855 Newspaper Reference
- 19 Another hypothesis...
- 20 An unverifiable memory
- 21 ...And Another related one
- 22 Boston's jump
- 23 American Dialect Society archive discussion
- 24 More about machine gun belts
- 25 In noting the Nine Yards on a boat
- 26 1956 appearance in a short story
- 27 Nine points
A citation for the source of the phrase (or, rather, lack thereof) is the excellent Word Myths (ISBN 0195172841, 2004), which devotes four and a half pages to it, if anyone is curious about following it up. Shimgray 11:41, 31 Dec 2004 (UTC)
In reading the novel, "Storm of Steel" by Ernst Junger, a German soldier in WW1, I came across a paragraph describing a game the soldiers would play when bored. They gathered unexploded ordinance in a pile in no mans land and took turns shooting at the fuses to set them off. If a hit exploded all the ordinance at once it was known as "all nine", his quotes. "Storm of Steel" was first published in 1920220.127.116.11 (talk) 23:45, 21 July 2016 (UTC)Cite error: There are
<ref> tags on this page without content in them (see the help page).
Origin of the phrase
We have some comments about "the whole 9 yards." I was born in 1958 and as early as I can remember this term was used by both my mother and father, and my grandparents. Throughout the 1940's and 50's slang street terms were never to be found in books or the newspaper, so I am not surprised that it was not recorded. In fact the interest in non main stream talk is a new phenomena as of the sixties. This would make us think that the term could be old and never recorded. Perhaps it was an old slang sailing term that was adopted by the Airforce. Or perhaps it started in World War II. Whatever the origin, this is how oral history is supposed to go; the meaning is with the generation that uses it, and yes, we borrow from the past but we modify it for our own purposes. I rarely use the term today because the meaning I grew up with is not used by the current generation. My family used "the whole nine yards" to mean "a lot of," but the reference was not to cement trucks but to dump trucks, because a nine yard load was a maximum load for a dump truck in the 50's. (comment placed in article by 18.104.22.168, 13:55, 29 March 2006)
Um, why are these things not 2 separte articles?? 22.214.171.124 02:01, 31 March 2006 (UTC)
- Good question. Although as a matter of note, however accurate the above may be, it wouldn't be allowed on an article for the quote as it's unverifiable (in media). - Hayter 09:13, 31 March 2006 (UTC)
Shimgray. I'm not sure why you changed my edit. BTW, you even changed the version that existed before my edit. You say that that a 1967 cite was previously mentioned. Can you tell me where? I'm not sure why the second earliest cite, prior to Shepard's book wouldn't be of interest, helping to nail down the time frame of the phrase--Viet Nam as opposed to WWII or concrete trucks in the 1950's. Samclem 19:38, 13 August 2006 (UTC)samclem
- Oops, forgot I never remembered to add the source for 1966... cited from memory (I don't have the book to hand, but I know I rewrote this article from it) and the other-stories bit tidied (it tends to grow additions of people's favourite theories over time and require pruning). (1966 vs 1967 - it's odd, Doom Pussy is cited with both dates. Not sure why)
- As for removing the post-66 quotes... it seemed excessive to me. The phrase got into wide circulation by 1970 at the latest; were the late-sixties quotes themselves fairly unusual (ie, we only have x many pre-1970 cites and this is most of them) or were they just random examples? It didn't give any details, and so I couldn't see any particular reason to leave them in... if they're significant, sure, but please explain that they are :-)
- Stratton, mmmh. It's an interesting link - I wonder when that group of stories was first recorded - but it does seem to be just anecdotal... not sure what to do with this bit. Shimgray | talk | 19:57, 13 August 2006 (UTC)
If you spent 30 emails/day and part of your life at the American Dialect Society as Barry Popik and I and a few others do(I know, we're obsessed!), you'd understand what we're trying to contribute. The Shepard book, released in Feb. 1967 is the earliest cite. Period. The Stratton info was found last year I think. Again, on the American Dialect Society Mailing List. It's important. But, IMHO, so is my late 1967 cite that I tried to enter today. We're trying to show that it doesn't go back to WWII or any such thing, by providing cites in print. Samclem 20:05, 13 August 2006 (UTC)
- Sorry, I apologise if I was unclear...
- The 1967 cite is the earliest, I agree, and it's important to use it to pre-emptively debunk the "my uncle heard it in the Pacific in '44!" stuff. (Incidentally, do you know why it's sometimes listed as '66? Is there a manuscript floating around, an early extract, or just sloppy recordkeeping?) I'm just not sure that in a general encyclopedic overview, we need to go into the level of detail that using subsequent cites involve - "first recorded X, crops up thereafter" is all the detail a general reader needs, to my eyes. Feel free to add the material back in if you feel otherwise, though. Shimgray | talk | 21:19, 13 August 2006 (UTC)
- Okay, I've hacked this around a bit, and I think you're right - the list of multiple cites seems to work, though it helps when they're put together for context. The first Popik page has a passing mention of "there's a 1968 cite in one of the _Current Slang_ volumes, from the U.S. Air Force Academy" - do you have any details of that one to hand? It'd fill a nice gap in the sequence, but it'd look a bit odd just to say "and one in 1968 somewhere" Shimgray | talk | 22:15, 13 August 2006 (UTC)
I don't happen to have the AF Academy cite handy, but will find it. The 1966 date for Shepard is given in a usually reliable source, Jon Lighter/Historical Dictionary of American Slang. But no one on the list today can find a hard cite for the 1966 date. I'll probably not have something on that until tomorrow night. You seem to be doing a pretty good job on your editing. I realized that you were right, the level of detail that is important to me is probably not useful in this kind of context(general encyclopedia). ````samclem sorry, still getting the hang of this format As you can see.Samclem 00:59, 14 August 2006 (UTC)
The publication date of "Doom Pussy" was 1967. Period. No possible error. As to the rest, I'll get back to you. 126.96.36.199 02:45, 14 August 2006 (UTC)
That was me. As if you didn't know. Samclem 02:47, 14 August 2006 (UTC)
Doom Pussy was published in Feb. 1967. The Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang uses a 1966 date, consistent with its editorial policies, on the theory that the book must have been written in 1966 to be published so early in 1967. John M Baker 13:27, 14 August 2006 (UTC)
Since this is an encyclopedia and not a specialized work, why not totally leave out the HDAS/1966 language and just go with the 1967 publishing date? 188.8.131.52 01:05, 15 August 2006 (UTC)samclem
Sam, that's entirely appropriate for the article, but since there is confusion on the dating, it's helpful to clarify that on this discussion page. John M Baker 17:36, 16 August 2006 (UTC)
Take a look at this: http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/004623.html 184.108.40.206 12:44, 21 June 2007 (UTC) (yuval pi)
A recent NY Times article says that they have found references back to the early 1900's, but expressed as the "whole six yards", but no one knows where that came from, either, just that the reference appears to predate all existing citations and invalidates most current theories. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 220.127.116.11 (talk) 00:19, 27 December 2012 (UTC)
Logically, just because a phrase is used in a certain context it doesn't follow that it originates there. Even if it's the oldest known example. The association with firing all rounds of an aircraft's magazine (which is not measured in yards) is no nearer an etymology than emptying a dump truck (the contents of which are not measure in yards). I'm thinking first recorded use is not necessarily etymology. It's a kind of logical fallacy. Hakluyt bean 04:28, 3 February 2007 (UTC)
In fact, the capacity of dump trucks, soil trucks etc. has often been expressed colloquially in "yards" -- short for cubic yards. In Australia we use metric measurements now (i.e., metres), but I grew up with builders, etc., routinely talking about getting in "[number] of yards of sand" or whatever.18.104.22.168 (talk) 01:46, 25 July 2010 (UTC)
Notwithstanding my above post... I should point out that Brits (& poss Canadians) generally assume the phrase originates with WWI. It crops up in casual reference all over the place. Here's a random example: One of our greatest metaphors for putting forth the maximum effort to achieve a goal comes from the slaughter of the Somme and Flanders Field — “going the whole nine yards” meant unloading in one glorious spasm the entire belt of machine gun bullets upon one's enemy, the standard issue belt that was nine yards long. (oops, actually that looks like a N. American site but the point stands - catholic education Hakluyt bean 04:38, 3 February 2007 (UTC)
My father explained to me in the fifties that the expression goes back to the tea clippers, which had three masts, each with three yards. "Going the whole nine yards" meant cramming on all sail and to hell with the weather. Makes more sense to me.
They've turned up an earlier reference -- see http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/005107.html AnonMoos (talk) 00:47, 8 December 2007 (UTC)
The true origin of the expression.
The expression "the whole nine yards" can be dated back to ancient Greece. It is a nautical term which was derived from three horizontal poles that hold up the sails on a square-rigged sailing ship. Each pole had three yards and for full force one would apply "the whole nine yards". refer to H.A. Harris, Sport in Greece and Rome (London 1972. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 22.214.171.124 (talk) 03:59, 12 February 2009 (UTC)
- The ancient Greeks did not use stepped masts. No vessel in classical times was full-rigged (having three masts with three yards each.) And, of course, "yard" is an English word, not Greek. Plus exhaustive research (described in the articla and on this talk page) shows that the phrase does not appear in print before 1962. So idea is nonsense. 126.96.36.199 (talk) 19:45, 19 August 2009 (UTC)
The original citation from the Mitchell, Indiana article was about a baseball team where you have nine players. If you accept the nautical allegory that each player is a yard on a sail boat, then "going all out" would be having each yard at full sail or "all nine yards." Certainly there is no conclusive way of knowing where the writer originated this phrase but the simplest explanation is usually the best even if it can not be proven.188.8.131.52 (talk) 18:48, 27 October 2013 (UTC)
I realize that anecdotal evidence is useless for purposes of the encyclopedia article, just thought I'd throw in my nine yards worth. I first heard the expression when I entered the Air Force in 1971. It seemed at the time to be military slang, seldom used off-base. Somewhere along the line, it was explained that it referred to the length of an ammunition belt, so that folk etymology was already in circulation around that time. It was several years later, in the late 70s, before I started hearing it used by civilians, and even then, it was mostly among veterans, although it was being picked up by other civilians, since at the time, nearly everyone knew at least one vet. It should be noted that my father never said it, despite having put in three hitches in the Army Air Corps during and after WWII (1940-1949), although he often used military slang/jargon in his everyday conversation. For what it's worth, I've seen lots of ammo, and belts are always referred to by the number of rounds they hold, not in terms of linear measurements. Terry Yager (talk) 19:17, 5 March 2009 (UTC) That is what I heard. It referred to the length of the ammo belt for a machine gun mounted on the B17 Flying Fortress. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 184.108.40.206 (talk) 00:48, 18 February 2014 (UTC)
Google Books reveals an 1894 cite for "the full nine yards" in the modern sense, referring to the length of a fabric bandage. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 220.127.116.11 (talk) 19:29, 3 September 2009 (UTC)
Horse pulls proposed as origin
In the sport of horse pulling (see Wikapedia article) a weighted sled is puled by a team of horses. In the early 20th century, in the Midwest U S a standard distance of 27'6" evolved as a standard test of equine stamina. A successful team pulled the sled the whole nine yards. Numerous organizations oversee the sport and can confirm. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 18.104.22.168 (talk) 23:52, 2 October 2009 (UTC)
The above text was edited into the head of the page. The formatting was all messed up, and citations are hinted but not given. It seemed better material for discussion & improvement here, if anyone cared to. I reverted the edit, moved the text here, and signed it with the original editor's IP.
From a quick look - the Horse pulling article (which they don't link, but seem to refer to), does not provide any information on "the whole nine yards". Nor did its external references, as far as I looked. And, the only real google result for "horse pulling" and "nine yards" was the above text, as originally shoehorned into the page. So I myself, passing by, don't see much to do but leave it here.
Here is the maths to prove it: The origin of 'the whole 9 yards' comes from the US Navy during WW2. Although reference is made to this in many sources, including Wikipedia, it is invariably referred to as the amount of ammunition used during/after a mission. This is incorrect - it refers to the amount of ammunition to be LOADED before takeoff. Shipborne fighters such as the F6F and F4U carried .50 Browning machine guns. Each gun had a maximum belt capacity of 400 rounds. However, before any ammunition could be loaded for a mission, the fuel load had to be calculated first in order to get the aircraft back to the carrier. These aircraft could not take off with both full fuel and weapon loads. Consequently, once the fuel was calculated, ammunition was then ordered up to the max takeoff weight of the aircraft. Belted ammunition was ordered in feet per gun (much quicker than counting rounds or weighing) and the armourers just split the belts accordingly. Only if less than full fuel was required (for shorter missions) could full ammo be taken. Pilots liked full ammo loads. A round of .50 ammunition is (not surprisingly) .5inches wide. Adding the gap between the rounds when in their clips (about .3") to the width of the round gives an overall measurement of 0.8" per round along the length of the belt. Multiply this 0.8 by 400 and you get 320 inches - which is 27 feet - which is 9 yards. Pilots gleefully ordering the maximum of ammo to play with, would therefore use this hyperbole when ordering it from the armourers.Rightstuffer (talk) 15:42, 13 November 2009 (UTC)
- Normally a fighter plane carries about 15 seconds of ammunition and has anyone looked at a set of plans for a P51, so 400 rounds is 1600 rounds a minute more or less DaveLister88 (talk) 09:23, 8 June 2014 (UTC)
- A round of .50 cal ammo (browning, or ANY other high powered round in this caliber) is NOT .5 inches wide. That's the width of the BULLET. In the case of the Browning the cartridge is about 3/4 inches wide, as anyone who has ever seen one can attest. Other high powered rounds are similar in shape.
- However .30 cal high powered ammo, like the 30/06, .303, and even the slightly larger german 8mm have cartridge diameters just under .5 inches (.44 for the 30/06). Such rounds were used in most WWI planes, and some early WWII planes like the spit and the hurricane. Ion G Nemes (talk) 19:37, 5 February 2015 (UTC)
I've removed this from the article for the time being:
- The earliest identified use of the exact phrase dates from 1942, in the Investigation of the National Defense Program: Hearings Before a Special Committee Investigating the National Defense Program, by Admiral Emory Scott Land, who said "You have to increase from 7.72 to 12 for the average at the bottom of that fifth column, for the whole nine yards". This use refers to the total output statistics for the nine new shipyards that produced "Liberty Ships" with unprecedented speed, crucial to the course of World War II. It is thus far undetermined whether this literal use gave rise to the transferred, metaphorical, figurative sense.
I understand what we're trying to do here - mention that there are earlier uses of the phrase, but that they're purely literal and not obviously linked to the metaphoric sense. However, it seems to give excessive weight to this particular instance, and imply that we do think there's a linkage - I can't figure out a way to rework this section in order to avoid that implication. Thoughts? Shimgray | talk | 16:23, 3 April 2010 (UTC)
Google books shows this in Another gardener's bed-book (1933 Lippincott) by Richardson Little Wright:
- By the time I have followed all nine yards of suggestions, I expect Meconopsis will be as common around this place as Calendulas or Crab- grass.
- I posted this to the American Dialect Society email list, and this response suggests that the example is probably not related to the phrase as it is currently used. The larger context of the quote is:
MECONOPSIS YARDAGE. Up to the moment of writing this paragraph my clippings from the horticultural press of America, England, France and Germany on the subject of Meconopsis, laid end to end, measure nine yards, five and two-thirds inches. This literature is almost as confusing as the opinion on Lupins. Horticulturally speaking, I have tried less than three and a half yards of the advice and can report progress only up to the seedling stage. At that point I confess defeat. By the time I have followed all nine yards of suggestions, I expect Meconopsus will be as common around this place as Calendulas or Crabgrass.
- John M Baker (talk) 17:58, 27 June 2010 (UTC)
Ballad of Sir Andrew Barton
The original text of the Ballad of Sir Andrew does not use the phrase "full nine yards". The original text (probably written in the early 16th century) is most likely something like what appears in the Child Ballads text. "Full nine" first appears in several cites in 1829... in the same sense as scores of other even earlier cites for "full nine yards", that is to indicate that the speaker is not exaggerating. There is no implication that nine yards is as much chain as would fit in the cannon; indeed Simon loads in "other great shot less, and moe" as well.
- Seems fair enough to me - I've removed it. (It is quite illustrative to run searches on, eg, "full seven yards", and see what other uses of the construction turn up) Shimgray | talk | 11:07, 30 July 2010 (UTC)
Another possible origin
I have no source to cite so I have not added to the article, but I understand the origin to be the length of the belt used with Vickers Machine Gun of the First World War - it was 9 yards long... —Preceding unsigned comment added by 22.214.171.124 (talk) 20:27, 25 August 2010 (UTC)
Though the current article version includes several quotations--which is good--in my opinion, the current article puts the cart before the horse. It gives excess prominence to a speculation, namely ammo belts, that has really very little going for it. And it places such speculation in the main text (plus a photo that may mislead some) but demotes the quotations--our main data--to notes. Because there is no consensus about the origin, one of the main services the article could provide is to make that clear, to place the known early quotations in the main text, before a (perhaps relatively shorter) selection of speculation, and, in that way, in effect, to invite new searches and new submissions of newly-found early published citations.Coralapus (talk) 11:10, 2 February 2011 (UTC)Coralapus
- The ammo belt theory is by far the most popular and most discussed theory. That it is quite obviously not true is beside the point, or perhaps I should say precisely the point. The charm of this phrase is that there are so many theories about it, and that there are people who believe passionately in each one. The article is quite short as it is and you are proposing to shorten the part that I'm sure attracts the greatest interest. Main text can be 40k.
- What kind of illustration would you suggest? I hardly think it would be appropriate to illustrate the dirty joke theory, which seems to be the only one that hasn't been debunked.
- Since the article is so short, we could list the quotes in a "Citation" section at the end in the manner of the Oxford English Dictionary. Ordinarily, the citation section on Wiktionary is the most appropriate place for an undigested list of this kind, but I certainly have nothing against inviting searches and submissions by giving the quotes greater prominence. But the focus of the article must be entertaining and informing the reader rather than solving a mystery. Kauffner (talk) 20:14, 6 March 2011 (UTC)
A hypothesis: Perhaps the measure in the expression refers to a cubic yard, commonly called a yard in various trades. The capacity of some dump trucks is nine yards. An order or delivery of coal, for instance, might specify "the whole nine yards." March's June (talk) 17:11, 14 March 2011 (UTC)
9 yards (was) allowed length of Cardinal "Cappa Magna" Robe
I simply do not understand all the nonsense about the phrase "Whole ( or FULL ) Nine Yards" having no usage pre 1960s and being from America !
Some Thirty years ago while at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School UK , the year group below me did a production of Shakespeares Henry V111 . The The Chap playing the Cardinal had a very Splendid , but tricky entrance in to make in full Cardinals Robes , with an enormous train.
He had to enter upstage centre and do a huge sweep of a small stage to take up position on a throne on a dias to one side of the Proscenium Arch. The 'arc' of his journey had to be just right to get all the fabric to follow him , and circle elegantly around his feet and the steps of the podium
Our movement teacher Rudi Shelly was discussing Costume with us one lesson and told us that although the young actor was having a tough time with that manouver , he did in fact have nothing to grumble about , as the Robe in the Production , despite being an impressive 15 foot long , was not in fact full length !
A Cardinals "Cappa Magna" , Rudi told us , although often shorter , can in fact be anything up to the allowed Full Nine Yards long.
I have always taken this to be the truth , and therefore the derivation of that expression. The "Whole nine Yards" film is a great favourite of mine , and out of curiosity today I thought I check out what I had always assumed was true.
Indeed it is .
A quick look on Google image for Cappa Magna will confirm it. Many of the robes are shown shorter ..and further investigation revealed that in the nineteen sixties the official maximum length allowed was almost halved. But there are many older photos and illustrations showing cloaks of nine yards filling streets in processions , or trailing down great knaves of Cathedrals.
Derivation of the phrases usage might now be mostly American ; in the same way the phrase "The Full Monty" is mostly British - but for the origin you need to turn to History and Heraldry.
There is also a UK Coronation Robe ( the "Dalamtic" Robe I think ? ) which is likewise Nine Yards Long.
1855 Newspaper Reference
Our local library allows whole newspaper searches, but you need to have a passworded account. I found only one early use of "whole nine yards," but it seems relevant.
Democratic Standard | Janesville, Wisconsin | Wednesday, March 14, 1855 | Page 4
A story (presented as truth) called "The Judge's Big Shirt" relates a practical joke involving telling a seamstress to make a judge a shirt out of "the whole nine yards" to wear to a party. They tucked the extra material into his pants and went to the party. "...instead of making three she has to put the whole nine yards into one shirt!"
How can I document the article? A link will just ask for a password.
http://0-access.newspaperarchive.com.alec.icpl.org/Viewer.aspx?img=35173571&firstvisit=true&src=search¤tResult=0¤tPage=0&fpo=False — Preceding unsigned comment added by Conn53victor (talk • contribs) 18:19, 14 October 2011 (UTC)
- Well, there's no requirement that you have a link to the text, so you could just give the paper cite and leave it to readers to go to a large library and look it up. However, I've quoted the entirety of your remarkable find in a post to ADS-L, so you could link to it here. John M Baker (talk) 02:41, 15 October 2011 (UTC)
Has there been any research done as to the possible connection with the number of yards used in making a traditional kilt? Julyrast (talk) 16:59, 21 October 2011 (UTC)julyrast There are some mentions of 9 yard kilts, as well as 9 yard saris, etc., but if the kilt was the origin, why would the phrase appear in English in the US long before in Scotland (or in India for the saris)?~~Coralapus — Preceding unsigned comment added by Coralapus (talk • contribs) 09:06, 28 October 2011 (UTC)
An unverifiable memory
This can't be used because as far as I know it's unverifiable, and I'm unsure of this old memory in any case, but I seem to remember as a child, probably in the late 1950s, listening to someone on the radio (I have no memory of whom) talking about a sportscaster and how his narrative of football plays as they were occurring was so accurate and complete that by the time the quarterback had traveled 10 yards to get a first down the sportscaster would have reported in detail the whole nine yards before it as well. Embram (talk) 05:28, 7 May 2012 (UTC)
Consider the possibility that a standard bolt of cloth in the pre-industrial era *might* have been nine yards - currently it is 40 or 100 yards (see bolt (fabric)), 'yard' being the common unit of measure for raw textiles from time immemorial to the present; if so, when one would purchase a nine-yard bolt down at the market, one could choose to make three pairs of jeans (see Denim), three shirts (see the story above) or one really extravagant garment - going 'the whole nine yards'. See also 'whole cloth', for use of the word 'whole' in the context of textiles. XyKyWyKy (talk) 19:25, 11 July 2012 (UTC)
- As always, the main problem here is the absence of any attested use of the phrase in a non-literal sense in the "pre-industrial era". That aside, a nine-yard bolt would be quite short. The OED gives "in various cases, 30 yards, 28 ells, or 40 feet"; 30 yards is attested in 1600, 28 ells in 1721, 40 feet in 1860 (though here it's specifically for canvas). Andrew Gray (talk) 20:45, 11 July 2012 (UTC)
- Re: evidence, yes agreed. Re: 9 yards being short, OK, maybe the unit wouldn't be a 'bolt,' but according to Peasant_Character_Studies_(Van_Gogh_series)#The_weaver, 60 yards a week was a good week's output. Divide by 6.5 (half day off for church) yields just about 9 yards. So at the end of a long working day, the weaver would cut off the work in progress and fold it up, ready for market. Again, total speculation, but I'm hoping some enterprising historian takes an interest in following this angle. EDIT - that isn't right either - maybe 'bolt' is wholesale, '9 yards' is retail. XyKyWyKy (talk) 14:19, 12 July 2012 (UTC)
- Can't find any reference to a unit of cloth measure between the yard and the bolt, so have to give up on the idea for now I'm afraid. XyKyWyKy (talk) 15:34, 13 July 2012 (UTC)
I restored in text about Ralph Boston's record setting jump in 1961. It was removed with the edit summary "B. jumped 8.24 *meters*". Two seconds on Google would tell you that 8.24 meters equals slightly more than nine yards or 27'-0 1/2". This is how it would have been reported in the United States and several other countries at the time (Canada, for example, hadn't yet adopted meters). Most Americans know that 27 feet equals nine yards. So, yes, if this world record was made today, a lot of US newspapers would put "the whole nine yards" in their headlines. Ego White Tray (talk) 16:01, 21 November 2012 (UTC)
- Recent edits basically follow speculation at phrasefinder, a site that did not credit American Dialect Society list members (including Bonnie Taylor-Blake and others) It is not relevant what a headline writer today might write. In 1961, remember, Google did not existCoralapus (talk) 14:07, 22 November 2012 (UTC)Coralapus
American Dialect Society archive discussion
It might be helpful if future editors of this article consult the findings archived by the American Dialect Society. http://listserv.linguistlist.org/cgi-bin/wa?S1=ads-l Findings there (for which the UK site phrasefinders is merely a secondary source, with added speculation) make claims such as a suggested 1950s origin now unlikely.Coralapus (talk) 17:16, 22 November 2012 (UTC)Coralapus
More about machine gun belts
There was no such thing as a standard length .50 caliber ammunition belt. Every aircraft had its own ammo capacity--some like the P-51 and F4U had differing amounts for the outboard guns where the wing was narrower. The P-47 took 425 rounds per gun but often flew with 300 to reduce weight. So the notion that "one size fits all" for ammo loading was invalid from the start. Btillman (talk) 17:40, 26 September 2013 (UTC)B Tillman 27 Sep 13
In noting the Nine Yards on a boat
After some research on line and in a vintage sailing book, I found no examples of a three masted sailing ship with 3 yards on each mast. My seach showed that the populer configuration is four yards or more preffered five yards (and as many as 8 yards on one mast)on each of the three masts. this also does not take in consideration of jibs, foresails, tops sails, gaff rigged sails (having a gaff and boom, square sails having only a yard or gaff), lantren sails.
I have found three masted boat with 2 yards, and two masted boats with 2 yards.
My theroy is that three mast with three yards is so rare, and the groups of square rigged is so rich in varities, that a standard of 3 by 3 sails could not logically inspire the saying "the whole nine yards".
1956 appearance in a short story
In Manly Wade Wellman's horror short story "Nine Yards of Other Cloth," published in the November 1956 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, a portion of the plot turns on this phrase, explicitly said to refer to the amount of cloth traditionally used to make a burial shroud. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 126.96.36.199 (talk) 06:28, 15 November 2015 (UTC)
- Dave Wilton discusses this story in Word Myths, saying that the 1958 citation is interesting, but it does not use the word "whole," nor is it a reference to the entirety of something. John M Baker (talk) 23:01, 15 November 2015 (UTC)
There earlier (19th c.) existed an expression "the (whole) nine points", meaning just that -- the maximum degree of completeness. I don't know its etymology (nine-point circle?..), but to me personally it's clear that "points" were succeeded by "yards" when "points" became somehow unintelligible -- linguists can put a name to a phenomenon, I believe.
Example: "On the whole, Augustine, I think your talents might do for a circuit rider," said Alfred, laughing. "Never you fear for us; possession is our nine points. We've got the power. This subject race," said he, stamping firmly, "is down and shall stay down! We have energy enough to manage our own powder." (Uncle Tom's Hut by Beecher-Stowe)
- Yury Tarasievich, The example you give is from the saying "possession is nine points of the law," also stated as "possession is nine-tenths of the law." Are there examples that do not involve this saying? John M Baker (talk) 15:03, 11 January 2016 (UTC)