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Old 05-22-2019, 08:46 PM
Wendell Wagner is offline
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The whole nine yards


There has been a lot of discussion on the SDMB over the years about the phrase "the whole nine yards". Here are two threads on it with links to other threads in them:

https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb...d.php?t=550944

https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb...d.php?t=774297

If anyone can link to a more complete set of SDMB threads on the subject, please do so.
  #2  
Old 05-25-2019, 02:43 PM
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Why do you ask?


You don’t say WHY you want this info. I see 2 possibilities: first, you want to know the origin of this phrase; second, you are more interested in the discussion process than the answer.

If it’s the second case, I can’t help you.

If it’s the first case, I refer you to WordOrigins.org (sorry no link). Once there, click “The Big List,” then the letter “W,” then “The Whole Nine Yards.” The site owner, etymologist extraordinaire Dave Wilton, provides as definitive an answer as possible.

PS: I did not click either link.
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Old 05-25-2019, 11:13 PM
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I started the thread because the "Cecil's Classics" column on the day I posted the thread was the column about "the whole nine yards". I thought posters who were new to the SDMB might be interested in seeing the whole discussion about the origin of the phrase. It went on for years and occupied quite a few threads. I linked to two of those threads which had links within them to some of the other threads. It was a fascinating discussion over those years in which Straight Dopers contributed some important information to the research into the origin of the phrase. I knew that there were some newer threads about this subject than the two threads that I linked to, so I was hoping that someone else who participated in the discussion could link to those newer threads. I thought the whole discussion in those many threads over many years showed that the SDMB could actually make important discoveries by its process of extended discussion and shared research. I know all about the origin of the phrase.
  #4  
Old 05-26-2019, 08:59 AM
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Originally Posted by Steven_Maven View Post
You don’t say WHY you want this info. I see 2 possibilities: first, you want to know the origin of this phrase; second, you are more interested in the discussion process than the answer.

If it’s the second case, I can’t help you.

If it’s the first case, I refer you to WordOrigins.org (sorry no link). Once there, click “The Big List,” then the letter “W,” then “The Whole Nine Yards.” The site owner, etymologist extraordinaire Dave Wilton, provides as definitive an answer as possible.

PS: I did not click either link.
Hint for short termers.
Answering questions with answers that basically boil down to google it is not why this board exists.
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  #5  
Old 05-26-2019, 12:10 PM
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I remember when it was, since that upstart, Google, could do searches better than Ask Jeeves.

As for continuing the discussion, I would like to present my own theory about the origins of "the whole nine yards." Well, this theory that I have--that is to say, which is mine-- ...is mine. My theory that I have follows the lines I am about to relate: There once was a boy with a lawn-mowing business. The cul-de-sac he lived on contained nine homes, and every Thursday he mowed the whole nine yards. That is the theory that I have and which is mine, and what it is too.

My citation? The voices in my head.
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Old 05-26-2019, 04:13 PM
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It's included inside the pages linked in the OP, but to make it clear, here's a link to a SD column that has a lot of replies.

Note that one of Cecil's replies concerns the fact that the phrase doesn't turn up until the 1960s. Ergo it is unlikely to be from WWII. But the phrase has since been found a few times going back to the early 1900s. Ergo is is unlikely to be from WWII.
  #7  
Old 05-27-2019, 01:49 AM
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Has it been taken any further back than 1907 now?

Or any further forward than 1855? There have been, as expected, other publications of "The Judges Shirt" around 1855, and I still can wonder if the two separate ideas merged sometime in the centre.

And -urg-- the link I had to the 1855 newspaper is now broken, and the site (Washington State Library) that I referred to is now unable to find anything relevant. Which doesn't give me any confidence in their search capability.
  #8  
Old 05-27-2019, 03:22 AM
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It's a mellifluous phrase that can be forgotten but turn up in every generation even if it's last use was forgotten.
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Old 05-27-2019, 03:36 AM
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The expression 'the whole nine yards' means 'all of it - the full measure'.
There's no disagreement on the meaning if the phrase. The discussion is about it's origin.
  #10  
Old 05-27-2019, 07:30 AM
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Originally Posted by dropzone View Post
My citation? The voices in my head.
There, there, it's okay. There exist oodles of YouTube channels, mostly dealing with flat earth and CT subjects, that rely on just that citation.
  #11  
Old 05-27-2019, 08:42 AM
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Originally Posted by PoppaSan View Post
Hint for short termers.
Answering questions with answers that basically boil down to google it is not why this board exists.
That’s not what I said. I gave a specific location.

Your message is poorly written. Instead of “Answering questions with answers...” you should have just said “Answers.” Also “basically” is unnecessary.

Insults are against the rules of the SDMB.
  #12  
Old 05-27-2019, 10:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Steven_Maven View Post
That’s not what I said. I gave a specific location.

Your message is poorly written. Instead of “Answering questions with answers...” you should have just said “Answers.” Also “basically” is unnecessary.

Insults are against the rules of the SDMB.
No, you said you didn't even bother to look at the links. If you're going to talk about correctness, you should know that responding without checking out links is considered a huge faux pas on this site. The links also make good reading. Had you done so, you would have found that we have our own experts here, ones who have done a great deal of illuminating research on the problem.

As for your copyediting... We have members who are book editors, published writers, professors, linguists, and other varieties of experts with more skills in the history, application, and usage of the English language - and many others! - than you can imagine.

We're all here to share our old knowledge and to learn new and fascinating items. Take this as a learning day.
  #13  
Old 05-27-2019, 12:42 PM
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Is "The Judges Shirt" the generally accepted origin of the term these days? Steven Maven's suggested link at wordorigins.org (it's ok, Steven, I'll do your link for you) disparages it, but it seems pretty clear cut to me, a complete non-expert.
  #14  
Old 05-27-2019, 03:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Teuton View Post
Is "The Judges Shirt" the generally accepted origin of the term these days? Steven Maven's suggested link at wordorigins.org (it's ok, Steven, I'll do your link for you) disparages it, but it seems pretty clear cut to me, a complete non-expert.
I think the point being made at WordOrigins is that there can be a huge difference between the first found appearance of a term and the usage that spawned the common acceptance of the term. If there were truly fifty years between that 1855 usage and a sudden upturn in the frequency with which it's found, then the earlier usage may just be a coincidence rather than a source.
  #15  
Old 05-28-2019, 05:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Teuton View Post
Is "The Judges Shirt" the generally accepted origin of the term these days? Steven Maven's suggested link at wordorigins.org (it's ok, Steven, I'll do your link for you) disparages it, but it seems pretty clear cut to me, a complete non-expert.
August 12, 2018! That brings the research pretty up-to-date. I think the most interesting information there is the new 1850 reference -- which suggests that The Judges Shirt was a later part of a general tradition, although not yet a catch-phrase. And the 1850 quotation at least leaves open the possibility that the idea was popular enough that it might have continued, unsighted, for the next 60 years, to spring into full flower at the turn of the century.

Last edited by Melbourne; 05-28-2019 at 05:36 AM.
  #16  
Old 05-28-2019, 07:58 AM
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Being a football lover, I've never liked the phrase. If all you get is, "the whole nine yards", then you've failed because you turn the ball over on downs.
  #17  
Old 05-28-2019, 08:02 AM
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It didn't spring into full flower until the 1960's. Until then there were only a few mentions of it in written material, often hard to distinguish from uses of "nine yards" not related to the phrase. My personal theory is that it began getting some significant use in speech during World War II and then again during the Vietnam War by people in the American military (and associated civilians). The machine-gun belt theory may have arisen because people decades later remembered hearing the phrase during World War II and joking claims about where it came from.
  #18  
Old 05-28-2019, 09:19 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Melbourne View Post
Has it been taken any further back than 1907 now?

Or any further forward than 1855? There have been, as expected, other publications of "The Judges Shirt" around 1855, and I still can wonder if the two separate ideas merged sometime in the centre.

And -urg-- the link I had to the 1855 newspaper is now broken, and the site (Washington State Library) that I referred to is now unable to find anything relevant. Which doesn't give me any confidence in their search capability.
So they didn't give their search the whole nine yards?

I'll see myself out...
  #19  
Old 05-31-2019, 08:01 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steven_Maven View Post
That’s not what I said. I gave a specific location.

Your message is poorly written. Instead of “Answering questions with answers...” you should have just said “Answers.”
Changes the meaning.
Quote:
Also “basically” is unnecessary.
If this were a term paper or some other important writing I'd've given a flying f*ck.

Quote:
Insults are against the rules of the SDMB.
Good thing I didn't insult anyone then isn't it.
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  #20  
Old 06-15-2019, 02:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Melbourne View Post
Has it been taken any further back than 1907 now?

Or any further forward than 1855? There have been, as expected, other publications of "The Judges Shirt" around 1855, and I still can wonder if the two separate ideas merged sometime in the centre.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Teuton View Post
Is "The Judges Shirt" the generally accepted origin of the term these days? Steven Maven's suggested link at wordorigins.org (it's ok, Steven, I'll do your link for you) disparages it, but it seems pretty clear cut to me, a complete non-expert.
FWIW, here's everything I know about 1855's "The Judge's Big Shirt" and how influential it may have been in giving rise to "the whole nine yards" as an idiom.

http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pip...ry/140388.html

TL;DR, I'm not convinced that although the anecdote itself, which uses "the whole nine yards" non-idiomatically and which was printed in newspapers all over the country in 1855, contributed to the rise of the idiom. (Especially since we may have a prototype of the idiom in Missouri in 1850.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wendell Wagner View Post
It didn't spring into full flower until the 1960's. Until then there were only a few mentions of it in written material, often hard to distinguish from uses of "nine yards" not related to the phrase. My personal theory is that it began getting some significant use in speech during World War II and then again during the Vietnam War by people in the American military (and associated civilians).
It didn't spring into full flower in print until the 1960s. We do have evidence the idiom was in use from 1907 onwards, distinguishable from uses of "nine yards" unrelated to the phrase, especially in the Upland South and in two different forms (if not more). It just seems to have been rarely captured in print until the 1960s.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:T...ase%22_section

This has been the problem with researching "the whole nine yards" and other homespun idioms: it's possible we rarely find these folksy expressions because they just didn't make it into newspapers, books, and magazines very often, though they may well have been in oral usage for long periods in smalltown America. (BTW, note in the examples linked to in the link above that the writers don't feel the need to explain the idiom to their readers. This implies that just about everyone then able to read the piece must've been able to recognize and understand the idiom without clarification.)

I agree with Wendell Wagner's assessment that American wars (possibly WWI through Vietnam) and the draft did much to introduce the idiom to those who hadn't heard it before. I suspect it was Southerners (or those from the Upland South) who introduced it to fellow military personnel from other areas. Once military types from all over the country adopted it, the idiom took off in print: most of the sightings from the '60s are in pieces that are in some way related to wars in progress (or NASA). (I wrote a piece on this for Comments on Etymology that, in part, explores this angle.)
  #21  
Old 06-15-2019, 03:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Jasmine View Post
Being a football lover, I've never liked the phrase. If all you get is, "the whole nine yards", then you've failed because you turn the ball over on downs.
That's why I have for decades assumed it was originally used sarcastically.
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Old 06-15-2019, 10:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Tammi Terrell View Post
FWIW, here's everything I know about 1855's "The Judge's Big Shirt" and how influential it may have been in giving rise to "the whole nine yards" as an idiom.

http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pip...ry/140388.html
That convinces me that 'the big shirt' wasn't the source of 'the whole nine yards'.

I gues that means that (1) I can still hang onto the idea that 'the big shirt' referenced an existing 'whole nine yards' idiom, and (2) attractive as the idea may be to me, it's inherently unlikely.
  #23  
Old 06-15-2019, 10:38 PM
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Gawd! Now I can’t stop thinking about Angus and the Kilt!
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  #24  
Old 06-16-2019, 07:56 AM
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Tammi Terrell writes:

> Once military types from all over the country adopted it, the idiom took off in print:
> most of the sightings from the '60s are in pieces that are in some way related to wars
> in progress (or NASA). (I wrote a piece on this for Comments on Etymology that, in
> part, explores this angle.)

Can you link to this piece or include it in a post or summarize it or whatever?
  #25  
Old 06-16-2019, 09:01 AM
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Originally Posted by Wendell Wagner View Post
Can you link to this piece or include it in a post or summarize it or whatever?
I'll be happy to. I'm afraid this small journal isn't available online, but I've uploaded a PDF of the article to http://www.med.unc.edu/uploads/ikwnh.taylorblak.pdf, where it will reside for a week or two before vanishing. (It includes a mention of our own samclement's work on the idiom.) Folks are welcome to send me a DM if they happen upon this post after the PDF has disappeared. (A small note: the editor had asked me to focus on a comparison of then-recent finds rather than speculate on possible origins of the idiom, which is what I did.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by John W. Kennedy View Post
Gawd! Now I can’t stop thinking about Angus and the Kilt!
Oof, I'm very fond of snopes.com and have been for two decades, but I'm very sad that their entry on "the whole nine yards" is so terribly outdated (it appears to be an orphan now) and, cringe, that it includes this:

Quote:
Oddly, the best candidate for the origin of the expression might lie with a risqué story of uncertain age, as the punchlines (and even the implied punchlines) of bawdy jokes sometimes linger on within the lexicon of ordinary use long after the howlers they came from have slipped from memory.
And then there's a whole section on Andy McTavish, cringe, and his manhood.

https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/the-whole-nine-yards/

Last edited by Tammi Terrell; 06-16-2019 at 09:02 AM.
  #26  
Old 06-16-2019, 11:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Tammi Terrell View Post
I'll be happy to. I'm afraid this small journal isn't available online, but I've uploaded a PDF of the article to http://www.med.unc.edu/uploads/ikwnh.taylorblak.pdf, where it will reside for a week or two before vanishing. (It includes a mention of our own samclement's work on the idiom.) Folks are welcome to send me a DM if they happen upon this post after the PDF has disappeared. (A small note: the editor had asked me to focus on a comparison of then-recent finds rather than speculate on possible origins of the idiom, which is what I did.)
Thanks very much for this, Tammi. It's a wonderful example of the difference between true research and the fanciful explanations people love to posit because they just plain sound good. I hope that some of the people who present elaborate rationales for twenty-seven feet of cartridge belts or cubic yards of cement read it and realize that stories seldom describe reality. Nor does cherrypicking one word out of a whole allow the history of the whole to be understood.

BTW, I note that samclem hasn't posted here in a year. Do you know if he's OK?
  #27  
Old 06-17-2019, 06:48 AM
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Thank you for your kind words, Exapno Mapcase.

But I'm distressed to learn that samclem hasn't been about. It's been a while since I've been in touch with him. I hope all's well with him. (BTW, I consider his 1964 find describing "the whole nine yards" as part of NASA-speak critical to moving research forward on possible origins of the idiom. It enabled me to think about the idiom in a whole new light.)
  #28  
Old 06-17-2019, 08:13 AM
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Although samclem hasn't posted in a year, under his profile it says:

Last Activity: 05-20-2019 02:39 PM

Does that mean that he's reading the SDMB but not posting to it?

Could someone E-mail him and ask?
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