Additional Information on "The Whole Six Yards"

Bonnie Taylor-Blake b.taylorblake at GMAIL.COM
Sat Sep 8 14:50:20 UTC 2012

On Sat, Sep 8, 2012 at 10:29 AM, Stephen Goranson <goranson at> wrote:

> It is possible that, with precursor or not, something happened in Word War II to truly initiate the current use of "the whole nine yards."

Maybe so, but Ron Rhody, born in northern Kentucky in 1932, told me
that "the whole nine yards" was an expression he grew up with and
heard everyone use, which suggests a pre-WWII occurrence.

Now, memory being what it is, of course it's possible he's
misremembering that and maybe this was something he was introduced to
in his years as a teenager (during and after the war).  But if he did
grow up with "the whole six yards" (or some yardage other than nine)
it's hard to explain why he was using "nine yards" by 1956 and 1957.
(And he himself didn't have a military connection.)  Remember, he told
me he had always felt that "nine yards" (and he was pretty clear it
was "the whole nine yards" he was talking about) had something to do
with football.  (That seems unlikely to me too, but it is what it is.)

I should note that Ron just couldn't get over anyone being interested
in the use of "the whole nine yards" from the 1950s and in earlier
instances that may be lurking out there, undiscovered, though -- once
I explained why we were interested in the issue -- he became intrigued
by the hunt.  But when we chatted about it over the phone, he laughed
at the idea that this would be at all extraordinary.  He was
perplexed, but tickled by the notion.

For what that's all worth, of course.

-- Bonnie

The American Dialect Society -

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