1956/1957 "whole nine yards" update

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Fri Aug 3 22:06:08 UTC 2012

Brilliant, Bonnie.


On Fri, Aug 3, 2012 at 5:32 PM, Bonnie Taylor-Blake <b.taylorblake at gmail.com
> wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Bonnie Taylor-Blake <b.taylorblake at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      1956/1957 "whole nine yards" update
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> I thought I'd share an update on those sightings of "the whole nine
> yards" from the 1950s.  I sent some of this to Ben earlier this week
> and he incorporated a few details in his latest Word Routes column.
> Before I begin, though, I need to thank Stephen Goranson for obtaining
> a PDF of the usage in the January, 1957 issue of *Kentucky Happy
> Hunting Ground*.  (There's a link to it far below.)
> On Monday, July 30, I spoke with Ron Rhody, who (among other things)
> wrote copy for KHHG from 1953 to 1957. Late last week I had stumbled
> on Ron's blog, where he mentioned his time at KHHG and his association
> with its editor, Harry Towles (see [1], below).  Ron (or Ronnie, as he
> was known to readers of KHHG at the time) tells me that he authored
> the two pieces in which "the whole nine-yards" (1956) and "the whole
> nine yards (1957) appeared.
> Ron became Assistant Director for Public Relations for the Department
> of Fish and Wildlife Resources and created and hosted "Kentucky
> Afield," the Department's radio and TV programs (see [2], below).  He
> had a long career in public relations and held senior positions with
> major U.S. corporations.  You can read more about him at his author's
> page at Amazon.com; see [3], below.
> Before we talked, we shared a few emails.  I've put together excerpts
> of those messages and typed up my notes from our phone conversation.
> Ron reviewed and approved what follows as accurately reflecting our
> conversations and his experience with "the whole nine yards."
> -- Bonnie
> ---------------------------------------------
> Ron Rhody was born in 1932 and grew up in Frankfort, Kentucky.  His
> parents were also native Kentuckians; his father was in the newspaper
> business.  Ron graduated from high school in 1950 and finished college
> at the University of Kentucky in 1955.  He joined Fish and Wildlife in
> 1953.
> He noted that "I originated the Kentucky Fishing Derby and the radio
> and TV Kentucky Afield series while working at the Kentucky Department
> of Fish and Wildlife Resources. I was in my junior year at UK, working
> part time at Fish & Wildlife to help pay my way through school."  It
> was in the July, 1956 piece about the state-wide Fishing Derby that he
> used "the whole nine-yards" (see [4], below).  Ron indicated that
> there was no significance to the hyphenation; this was just a habit of
> his.
> He also authored the "Dear Sir" columns, which appeared in each issue
> of the bimonthly magazine.  He explained that "[t]hey were a regular
> feature in the Happy Hunting Ground magazine while I was there. 'Dear
> Sir' was the standing head. The pieces always began 'Dear Harry' --
> the conceit being that I was writing from the field bringing Harry
> Towles, the magazine's editor, up to date on what was happening out
> there."  It was in the January, 1957 "Dear Sir" column that Ron used
> "the whole nine yards" (see [5], below).
> Ron is surprised by interest in the origin of "the whole nine yards."
> He explained that "[i]t was a common phrase when I was growing up, in
> use and understood by almost every one I knew."  He further noted that
> "I've always understood 'the whole nine yards' to be a football
> reference. It's fourth and nine and rather than do the smart thing and
> punting, you go for it all. So the phrase to me has always meant going
> for it all, or in a more generic sense, to refer to all of what
> remains."  He had not heard variant forms ("all nine yards," "the full
> nine yards," etc.) growing up.
> At the end of my interview with Ron, after gathering the above
> information, I asked him whether "the whole nine yards" might have a
> military connection considering that so many of the early sightings
> (1960s) had links to the military and aviation.  He reiterated that
> this was something he grew up with and speculated that men with
> military connections had more opportunities to be quoted back then. We
> discussed whether -- given what he had told me -- "the whole nine
> yards" might have been a regionalism, one in use before World War II.
> That, at least, is his feeling.
> [1] http://www.ronrhody.com/hunting-fishing/deja-vu-all-over-again/
> [2] http://fw.ky.gov/app/news/newsdetail.aspx?id=820 ; Ron is on the
> left, holding the microphone.
> [3] http://www.amazon.com/Ron-Rhody/e/B002BMD3EU/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0
> [4] http://www.med.unc.edu/uploads/dmktm.july1956p1.pdf     (this link
> will expire in 7 days)
> [5] http://www.med.unc.edu/uploads/tbepr.jan1957p31.pdf    (this link
> will expire in 7 days)
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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