"nine yards" unlikely from football?

Victor Steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Sat Sep 8 14:08:44 UTC 2012

This seems to be a misstatement of the sarcastic football use of "whole
nine yards". The idea that I've heard behind it (and occasionally used
on the field) is that it simply represents a lot of effort only not to
get the first down, i.e., the "whole" nine yards is obviously not
enough, so not really "whole". Thus, the focus would not really be on a
single play or on fourth down, although both could be contributing
factors. It mashes well with other expressions, such as "X yards and a
cloud of dust". Again, I am not suggesting this as the likely origin,
but it is something to keep in mind.


On 9/8/2012 7:30 AM, Stephen Goranson wrote:
> 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
> www.duke.edu/~goranson

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

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