"nine yards" unlikely from football?

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Sat Sep 8 11:30:15 UTC 2012

While I doubt linear measure is behind "the whole nine yards," football linear measure seems an even more unlikely subset of possibility.

First, if a fourth (down) and nine yards to go (for a first down) putatively may seem like a big deal to try for a long-shot first down (as it were, to shoot the moon), a fourth and ten yards to go would be a bigger deal to attempt (rather than to punt).

Second, I have read many, many accounts of football plays in which so and so made nine yards, but don't recall any even remotely early case in which the reporter shows any sense of a double meaning. If the phrase arose in football, whouldn't we expect some such mention?

Stephen Goranson

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

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