The Whole Six Yards of It

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Sat Sep 8 10:33:28 UTC 2012

Well, when I pointed out offlist the second article about the same game on the same page, and, under it, the league standings, listing the six teams--"How they Stand" (they being Columbia, Greenville, Charlotte, Charleston, Augusta, Spartanburg)--I gave my view that "The Whole Six Yards of It" refers to these six teams, and their ball yards, and the It is the South Atlantic league.

This, I suggest, is no precursor of "the whole nine yards" unless we take precursor in a weak sense with vanishingly-small context. Of course there is the pattern "the whole X" (shebang etc.) which in some sense could be called a precursor, but whole nine yards likely had a literal referent before it became figurative. And I think that literal referent more likely comes not from what OED lists as yard noun 2 (stick, 36 inches, etc.) but from noun 1, which includes, among other things, shipyards [and 9 shipyards were not mentioned only once, in 1942] and... baseball yards.

E.g., from OED
 ballyard n. Baseball = ballpark n. 1.

1897   Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Evening Gaz. 26 Aug. 5/3   One of the most sensational plays made at the ball yard this season.
2002   D. Martin & B. Martin Best of San Francisco (ed. 5) i. 26   Pacific Bell Park has the look of a grand old ballyard with its brick façade.

[An off-topic question: why is Camden Yards plural?]

I find largely non-persuasive Arnold Zwicky's April 10, 2009 blogpost "The Whole X." Among other things, AZ wrote: "I’m going to suggest that this might be a fruitless search, akin to asking who the original Mac, Joe, Charlie, Stan, etc. was in vocatives addressed to men." I don't find the two "akin" in any stong sense (especially for the misheard Stan.)

Entire and full nine yards are plausibly seen as later variants of whole nine yards, as is nine yards of goodies.
In "...all going into a common report when the whole nine yards gets wrapped up" note that the project is not identical with the later report.

Stephen Goranson

From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] on behalf of Bonnie Taylor-Blake [b.taylorblake at GMAIL.COM]
Sent: Saturday, September 08, 2012 2:42 AM
Subject: [ADS-L] The Whole Six Yards of It

Well, since Fred Shapiro has just brought up "the whole nine yards" and
Geoff Nunberg has just mentioned (potential) baseball apocrypha ...

Any thoughts on what's at the following link?  You'll find an article
published 7 May 1921 describing, inning by inning, a just-completed
baseball game between the Spartanburg Spartans and the Greenville Spinners.
 The article is titled "The Whole Six Yards of It.",2164793&dq=whole-six+yards-of-it&hl=en

Here are a few things we do know.  Both South Carolina squads were in the
six-team South Atlantic (minor) league.  Further, another description of
the ballgame can be found in the upper left of the whole page.  And,
finally, this doesn't appear to have been the title of a regular column:
 as far as I can tell, "The Whole Six Yards of It" was used just once in
issues of the *Spartanburg Herald-Tribune* appearing in Google's news

What, if anything, do we make of the paper's use of "The Whole Six Yards of

-- Bonnie

The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list