"The Whole Seven Yards" = "The Whole Nine Yards"?

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Sat Sep 8 10:11:56 UTC 2012

Though such cases may be worth mentioning, I think this one is not evidence for the concrete-truck theory, but merely one particular measurement that doesn't much leave, shall we say, this particular driveway. (seven = nine?)

Perhaps compare:
 American City v 68 p175 letter (verified on paper; exact reference at home, if anyone wants it, maybe August)
Based on actual scale weight, without regard to whether or not the bodies were full to the 9 yards of capacity, our trucks averaged during 1953...

Utah Case Law - MULBACH v. HERTIG, 15 Utah 2d 121 (1964) (verified on paper; copy at home)
Utah Case Law - Loislaw - Jan 22, 1964
On March 15, 1962, at about 6:30 pm, the plaintiff was driving his large cement truck carrying about nine yards of aggregate (about 2700 pounds per yard) in ...

Billboard. Jan. 15, 1949. p.16 col. 1-2
... it was 40 weeks a year for a routine. In radio, it is 40 'weeks every week. In television, it's 40 weeks every hour, TV Gobbles 'Em Up What few people outside the program ranks realize is that television eats up programs like a nine-yard shovel.


I do think, though, that an original "concrete" referent--concrete here defined very broadly, historical--is much more likely than a "mystical number" explanation (why yards? why US only?) or a random meaningless fill-in-the-blank place holder.

Stephen Goranson

From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] on behalf of Shapiro, Fred [fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU]
Sent: Friday, September 07, 2012 10:47 PM
Subject: [ADS-L] "The Whole Seven Yards" = "The Whole Nine Yards"?

I have never been a big fan of the concrete-truck theory of the origin of "the whole nine yards," but this citation could be taken as evidence for that theory, with "seven yards" later being changed for some reason to "nine yards":

1953 _Cleveland Plain Dealer_ 6 Sept. 62 (GenealogyBank)  Their concrete was running four inches deep on hard bedded cinders and clay.  The five of them had the whole seven yards of ready-mix concrete spread and troweled on the 72-foot driveway in a matter of five hours, when refreshments were waiting.

Fred Shapiro

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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