In World War II the ammunition belts in airplanes were 27 feet or 9 yards long. When you used all your ammo on one enemy plane it was said that he got the whole nine yards. :wally
When commenting on one of Cecil’s columns, it is customary to provide a link to said column. Thank you.
The problem with this theory is that “the whole nine yards” doesn’t appear in print until the 1960s. If it was a common expression during World War II, then it should have appeared in print in the 1940s or the 1950s somehow.
Welcome to the Straight Dope Message Board, skyward 22!
It often helps to search the Archives before posting a question or comment, as many have been discussed before. As Czarcasm notes, there are no fewer than eight previous threads on “the whole nine yards” in the last year alone. The settled opinion is that Cecil is right (no surprise) – no one knows. A search of other reputable language sites will reveal the same.
Alright, here it is, the definitive answer, a mnemonic device;
thorium - helium
tungsten - hydrogen - oxygen - lithium - erbium
nickel - neon
yttrium - argon - dysprosium - sulfur
ThHe WHeOLiEr Nine YArDyS
When you add their atomic numbers;
90+2+74+1+8+3+68+28+10+39+18+66+16 = 423
is divisible by 9.
This, of course, is the chemical makeup of BULLSHIT!