The whole nine yards (1907 - 1916)

Bonnie Taylor-Blake b.taylorblake at GMAIL.COM
Sat Sep 7 22:41:18 UTC 2013

On Fri, Sep 6, 2013 at 6:14 PM, Baker, John <JBAKER at> wrote:

> For convenience I'm going to put all of these citations together in this
thread, then offer my comments.

Thanks for doing so, John, and for sharing the 1916 citation from
Greensburg, which (as you noted) describes the "first of the new barrel
skirts," the "real for-sure one, wiring, hoops and the whole, nine yards
cooperage product," along with mentioning "the nine yards of goods used in
the make up [of the skirt]."  I actually had seen that on my earlier scan
of, but -- for what it's worth -- it just didn't
strike me as related to the idiomatic "the whole nine yards."

> Now it looks like "whole nine yards" is actually earlier, and the 1907
use above is clearly the modern sense of wholeness, rather than suggesting
a long story or a lot of information.

Although that 1907 use of "the full nine yards" and the 1912 use of "the
whole nine yards" (in the snippet about Teddy Roosevelt) do indeed seem to
move away from signalling "the long version" of a story or the imparting of
a lot of information, I think the uses from 1908 and 1914 could be read in
the context of "information-sharing" or "the long version."  I'll try to be
more objective, though, in thinking about this; it's hard to shake a pet

One more small thought about the new data.  My *guess* is that just one
person (perhaps the editor or publisher) was responsible for the four uses
of the "nine yards" forms in The Mitchell Commercial.  And I'll note that
the three instances of "the whole six yards" that appeared in The Mount
Vernon Signal seem have have originated with the paper's correspondent from
nearby Livingston.

Given that there's not much temporal separation between the so-far earliest
"nine yards" sightings and the so-far earliest "whole six yards" sighting,
I wonder whether we might at the moment think of these variations as
essentially co-existing, at least during this period and (pretty much)
within the same region.  (Who knows what we'll find next, though.)

That way of thinking allows us to extend your list of early "nine yards"
citations (thank you) by merging it with the "six yards" forms uncovered
last year.  (See below.)  Not sure whether seeing them together helps much,
but it's worth a try.

-- Bonnie


[1907] This afternoon at 2:30 will be called one of the baseball games that
will be worth going a long way to see.  The regular nine is going to play
the business men as many innings as they can, but we can not promise the
full nine yards.  [From "Baseball," The Mitchell Commercial (Lawrence
County, Indiana), 2 May 1907, p. 2]

[1908] Roscoe Edwards and wife returned Wednesday evening of last week from
Saltillo where they had been visiting Mr. and Mrs. W.C. Cook.  While there
Roscoe went fishing and has a big story to tell, but we refuse to stand
while he unloads.  He will catch some unsuspecting individual some of these
days and give him the whole nine yards.  [From The Mitchell Commercial, 4
June 1908, p. 3.]

[1912a] But there is one thing sure, we dems would never have known that
there was such crookedness in the Rebublican [sic] party if Ted and Taft
had not got crossed at each other.  Just wait boys until the fix gets to a
fever heat and they will tell the whole six yards.  [Mount Vernon
(Kentucky) Signal, 17 May 1912.]

[1912b] As we have been gone for a few days and failed to get all the news
for this issue we will give you the whole six yards in our next.  [Mount
Vernon Signal, 28 June 1912.]

[1912c] The above would indicate that bull moosers are trying to pave the
way for "Teddy" to hang on forever, should they succeed in landing him this
time.  Might as well take the whole nine yards while you're at it.  If
Roosevelt gets in move to make it permanent.  [From "Third Term
Superstition," The Mitchell Commercial, 10 October 1912, p. 2.]

[1914] Tired and disgusted the lady returned and while resting a moment a
little girl came in and inquired if they should keep the basket too. The
girl stated she called for the premiums and finding no one she looked in
the basket and knew the goods belonged to her mama, so she took them.  This
settled the whole nine yards.  [From "Story of a Green Basket," The
Mitchell Commercial, 26 November 1914, p. 1.]

[1916] Well, Mr. Editor we must take our hat off to you. In your last
week's editorial you sure did give them the whole six yards and it did suit
us to a T.Y.  So, come again at your earliest convenience.  [From
"Livingston," The Mount Vernon Signal, 22 September 1916, p. 1.]

[1921] The Whole Six Yards of It  [Title of an article describing a
baseball game, The Spartanburg (South Carolina) Herald, 7 May 1921, p. 5.]


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