Subject: The Whole Nine Yards - Solved?

Brian Hitchcock brianhi at SKECHERS.COM
Mon Oct 17 19:28:38 UTC 2011

A shirt that was * Five yards long and four yards broad * would require
considerably more than nine yards of fabric.

If the aforementioned shirt measured five yards tall by four yards wide
when laid FLAT, it would require close to 40 square yards (5x4 for the
front, 5x4 for the back).  This ignores the thickness of a man's body. On
the other extreme, If it were perfectly cylindrical,  with a diameter of
four yards, the front and back would require roughly  62.83  square yards
(5 x (Pi x 4)). But neither of these calculations seem to include any
allowance for the ARMS, the COLLAR, the PLACKET, or the YOKE. From the
story, we know the collar was at least as tall as the man's head, and
probably narrower than his shoulders, but one could argue that the fabric
for the collar was already accounted for, because the collar's  height was
included as part of  the five-yard length of the shirt. One might
similarly argue that the arms were accounted for as part of the width of
the shirt. The placket, to be proportional, would have been six to eight
inches wide, but would still only require, say (5yds x 1/5 yard = 1 sqare
yard) And for the measured-flat assumption, the yoke could be ignored  (0
yards); for a cylindrical shirt, however, the YOKE ALONE could have
required nearly 20 square yards of cloth!   (Pi x 2.5 yards x 2.5 yards =
approximately 19.63 square yards). More likely, the yoke was somewhere
between these two extremes. But counting the yoke and the placket, this
makes a maximum of 83.46 yards for the shirt.

Let us generously assume that the bolt of fabric was 60 inches wide (these
days, 54 , 48, or even 44 inches are more common  -- at those widths, the
shirt would have required even more lineal yards of cloth -- but perhaps
in 1855 a full 60-inch width might have been common. I suspect that any
more than that would have been impractical to transport or work with.)
Anyway, assuming  a 60-inch bolt width, each linear yard is equivalent to
one and two-thirds square yards  (1 yard by 60 inches  = 3 feet x 5 feet
=  15 square feet  =  one and two-thirds square yards).

Thus the shirt would have required

a minimum of   24 linear yards  (40 square yards divided by one and
two-thirds square yards per lineal yard)

 a maximum of  50 linear yards (83.46 square yards divided by one and
two-thirds square yards per lineal yard)

I submit that the entire shirt tale is a fabrication, made up out of whole
cloth, and totally immaterial.

Brian Hitchcock

Torrance, CA

The American Dialect Society -

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