"86" that answer

When all manner of alcoholic beverages were in short supply just after prohibition was repealed, 101 proof liquor was much more requested than the other available proof…86 proof. When the 101 proof version inevitably ran out, the only alternative was the 86 proof version. Hence when a bar customer asked for a 101 proof shot, he would at times get the response, “86,” meaning “We’re all out of the 101 proof…do you want our alternative?”

Cite, please? This sounds like an urban legend.

For years, I worked in the restaurant industry and we always used the term “86” to refer to items we ran out of or employees who were fired. I once asked a chef I was working with where the term came from and he explained that the original subway system in New York City only ran to 86th Street so when you were at the end of the line, you were literally 86’ed (unless, of course, you bought a ticket that would take you back to where you had come from).

LINK TO COLUMN: Where does the term “86” come from? - The Straight Dope

Strictly urban legend, as far as I know, but on a literary pub crawl in NYC 15 years ago, we stopped at a very old bar in the West Village called Chumley’s. It was a speakeasy during prohibition. They showed us vestiges: a trap door near the bar that led to a tunnel that took people into the basement of house around the corner; a bookcase that was really a secret door that opened to an alley. Apparently, the owner had someone on the payroll with the coppers, and when a raid was imminent they called ahead so the bar could warn their regulars to get out quickly. The address of the bar was 86 Bedford St.

Welcome to the Straight Dope Message Boards, JamieG, we’re glad to have you here.

When you start a thread, it’s helpful to other readers if you provide a link to the column you’re commenting on. Saves searching time, keeps us all on the same page. No biggie, you’ll know for next time, I’ve edited the link on the bottom of your post… and, as I say, welcome!

komarap, I’ve combined two threads that were on the same topic.

Back during the solar empire, ten thousand parsecs ago, my grandpappy used to ride a fusion train through the kenari cluster. There were 96 liquid water planets in the empire, but one day Gelond, aka planet 86, was destroyed by a gamma ray burst. From then on, in a fit of horrible black humor, the train navs used to call anything that had been discontinued “86’d.”

After the final wars when the fleeing remnants of the fusion train guildship staggered through the melting transnets to this planet and melded with the natives in a place called London, certain phrases were seeded into the native speakers evolving language. They include “Od’s bodkins,” “23 skidoo,” “it’s all good,” and , of course “86’d”

Now you know the true story of the origin of that phrase. According to me, at least.

State of the Art about the term eighty-six or 86 from Barry Popiks website

Chumley’s is not very likely. Neither is prohibition.

Edited to add…why would a chef in the last 30 years have any insight into a term that went back 80 years, and almost certainly farther…

This is BS. There are Gelondian sagas that use the term, so it has to predate that planet’s sad demise.

Cecil writes, “Other lunch counter code numbers (I rely here on the Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins) include … 87-1/2, check out the babe over yonder.”

The staff of the McDonalds where several of my high school buddies used to work had its own code for particularly attractive customers. When a suitably impressive young thing would make an order, the cashier would preface the order in the microphone with “Ice on 3!” (i.e. check out the babe at register 3). The guy in the back would acknowledge “Ice on 3! Thank you!”

Where I work, the code is “Steve”, as in “have you seen Steve today?” Really hot girls are “Steve Anderson”.

‘86 that’ is a term that originated during prohibition at a speak easy called Chumleys located at 86 Barrow St in NYC. Although the local police were paid off, raids would occassionally occur and during such instances, the patrons were told to 86 that drink to dispose of the evidence.

You realize, of course, that this makes no sense.

As a young bartender in the early 70’s I was told the story that in Phildelphia or some other Eastern city? that before prohibition there was a long avenue, 86th ave or street? that had a ton of saloons on it. A trolley ran the length of 86th ave and had a turnaround way up on top of a hill. Barkeeps that had too drunk customers would haul them out to the passing trolley and the conductor would throw them off in the bushes up at the turnaround to sleep it off. This way of disposing of drunks was called 86ing 'em.

Pssst… see Post #4. It’s not that long of a thread…

On Get Smart Maxwell Smart was Agent 86 and 99 was, well 99. I don’t know if the character names came before or after the show, but in the restaurant I worked at the owner was referred to as 99 (the smart, together responsible agent?) and 86 meant what everyone else here said. Just thought I’d add to the confusion.

The character names came at the same time as the show, in the usual way.

The slang use of “86”, however, is much older than the show.

What is really disturbing is the fact that “86” is the inverse of “98” … and we all know what that insinuates…teeheehee!:wink: