Montagnards & 9 yards proposal

Dave Wilton dave at WILTON.NET
Fri Jan 16 21:24:10 UTC 2004

> -----Original Message-----
> From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU]On Behalf
> Of Stephen Goranson
> Sent: Friday, January 16, 2004 1:53 PM
> Subject: Re: Montagnards & 9 yards proposal
> Douglas G. Wilson wrote: "This etymology has been proposed
> before." If this is
> a claim about the etymology involving nine tribes of Montagnards, please
> provide a citation.
> The claim that "It would be 'all nine Montagnards'" does not
> persuade me. My
> proposal involves nine groups, not nine individuals.
> Compare, for example, Niccolo Machiavelli, The Art of War, Book 2, Ellis
> Farneworth translation: "...the whole ten Companies, therefore,
> come to three
> thousand shield bearers, a thousand ordinary pikebearers [etc.]...."
> Stephen Goranson

I've heard the "nine tribes of Montagnards = nine yards" explanation before
as well. I didn't save a citation because it was someone simply making the
claim, not providing evidence as to its validity.

Like Douglas Wilson, I remain unconvinced. I wouldn't dismiss it out of
hand--the USAF in Vietnam links are interesting, but I have my doubts.
Specifically, the transition from "nine tribes of yards" to "nine yards"
seems like a big leap.

Given the history of baseless conjecture regarding this phrase, I think an
exceptional standard of proof is required for any explanation. Transitional
usage citations of "nine yards" in reference to Montagnard tribes (e.g.,
"nine yard tribes") is needed. Further speculation without additional early
citations is fruitless.

--Dave Wilton
  dave at


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