Montagnards & 9 yards proposal

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Sat Jan 17 15:46:32 UTC 2004

Naturally, I would welcome additional early citations. As it stands, to my
knowledge, the three earliest "known" publications are all explicitly tied to
Vietnam, home of "Montagnards," called Yards (as a sound, but not a character,
slur), nine tribes of whom were grouped in published description addressed to
Vietnam War GIs. Here are a few more details; possibly, some of these may
suggest places to look.

I am guessing that the text Jesse S. mentioned is the 1970 article I mentioned.
The author, in Colorado, reported "language used by U.S. Air Force pilots."
Besides "whole nine yards--the entire thing. Also 'whole smash' [cf. the pilot
character Smash] or 'whole smear' [schmear?]" It also notes "Arvins..."
and "Ruff
Puffs--Regional Popular Forces; semi-irregular Vietnamese soldiers."

The Feb. 1967 Trident edition and the Nov. 1967 Pocketbook editions of The Doom
Pussy have the same text but different page numbers. The "full nine" is
attested as early as the "whole nine." The 1991 book Doom Pussy II also uses
the phrase. The full quotes in context, which are, of course better than my
previous description, suggest to me that the author was unaware, or at least
does not demonstrate, any knowledge of the original literal meaning or origin.
A snail mail letter to Elaine (Elizabeth) Shepard in NY was not answered nor
returned as unknown.

Smash "Crandell," named in 1991 as Smash Chandler, is now deceased, his
daughter informed me. Nails Nelson was reportedly in March 2002 in Salt Lake
"Yards" was used before 1966, e.g. in The Green Berets, 1965. Ground troops
might be more likely as the first phrase users, than the Air Force. And "yards
tribes" is attested.

Jim Morris, the 1972 author, served more than one ground tour. His memoir, War
Story, unless I missed it, does not have the phrase. He did read The Doom
Pussy, and liked it. He wrote (2002) that he may have picked up the expression
between '62-'65, while on Okinawa.

Additional information is welcome, on this interesting bit of word history,
even if perhaps not the most important one (e.g., not as important as the
etymology of "Essenes.")

Stephen Goranson

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