"the whole nine yards"

Gerald Cohen gcohen at UMR.EDU
Thu Aug 5 21:38:25 UTC 1999

  An Aug. 2 message from Grant Barrett passed along the following request
to ADS-L---

>>I will be conducting a diversity presentation on Slang.  I was asked for
>>the origin of "the whole nine yards"  and "the whole enchilada".  Do you
>>know where I might find that info and the origin of other slang terms?
>Rod Drumm
>nyrrod at att.net

------The _San Diego Union Tribune_, March 11, 1997, sec. E., pp.1,3
contains an article entitled "Show Me The Phrases! by staff writer Gil
Griffin.  Griffin had interviewed Thomas Donahue, a San Diego State
University linguistics professor for the article, and one part is relevant
to Mr. Drumm's above query:

   "''The whole nine yards' has  origins in World War II ... It came from
World War II fighter pilots in the South Pacific,' Donahue said, recalling
a letter he received about the phrase.

    "'The pilots had '50 caliber machine gun ammuntion belts that measured
27 feet.  If the pilots fired all their ammo at a target, they said they
let go the whole nine yards.

    "'The saying remains, 50-plus years later,' Donahue said,  'because
it's still an easy way to express totality."

-----For an overall discussion of the expression, see my item in the
November 1998 issue (vol. 28, no. 2) of  _Comments on Etymology_, pp.1-4;
(title): "_Whole Nine Yards --Most Plausible Derivation Seems To Be From
WWII Fighter Pilots' Usage."

---Gerald Cohen

gcohen at umr.edu

More information about the Ads-l mailing list