[Ads-l] "Full Nine Yards" from 1894

Sun Aug 9 20:20:32 UTC 2015

On the Straight Dope Message Boards, a poster with the username Peter Morris (which sounds like it may also be his real name) has posted a link to what appears to be the earliest example yet of "full nine yards."  The source is a clinical lecture on the care of leg ulcers, and it includes the following passage:

"[Y]ou will not cure this ulcer until you improve the nutrition of the leg, until you support the weakened, dilated veins.  This is best done by means of the many-tailed bandage and a flannel roller.  The soft cheese-cloth strips are cut long enough to overlap about three inches, are thoroughly wet and applied very firmly over such local applications as you may adopt from the root of the toes up to the knee, each strip half-way overlapping the one below.  It is essential that the roller should be of first-class flannel, containing little or no cotton, or it will be too rigid and unyielding.  This is wet thoroughly, squeezed out and firmly applied over the cotton strips, beginning with a circular turn behind the toes, over the ankle with a figure-of-eight, and up the leg by spiral reverse turns.  Do not use the figure-of-eight above the ankle, as it does not make the necessary firm, equable pressure, and do not be stingy with your bandage, but use the full nine yards."

James S. Chenoweth, M.D., Demonstrator of Surgery in the University of Louisville, Chronic Ulcer of the Leg:  Clinical Lecture Delivered at the University of Louisville, in International Clinics:  A Quarterly of Clinical Lectures vol. III (4th series), 217, at 219 (1894), https://books.google.com.au/books?id=7phXAAAAMAAJ&q=%22full+nine+yards%22&dq=%22full+nine+yards%22&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CBwQ6AEwAGoVChMI_bn6gMKcxwIV5K7bCh1iaQCH#v=snippet&q=%22full%20nine%20yards%22&f=false.  If that long URL doesn't work, https://books.google.com.au/books?id=7phXAAAAMAAJ should get you to the book, and then you can find page 219.

There is no earlier reference in the lecture to the length of the bandage, so this does not appear to be a literal use of "nine yards."  Google's Advanced Book Search, https://books.google.com/advanced_book_search?hl=en, does not find this book, so it may be significant that the contributor used books.google.com.au.

There is a brief biography of Dr. Chenoweth at https://books.google.com/books?id=sUoVAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA1077&lpg=PA1077&dq=james+chenoweth+%22university+of+louisville%22&source=bl&ots=14TnWP9dp_&sig=L3Ykn2QrfhMHoMBOCX-UkYcMZno&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CCEQ6AEwAmoVChMIxazYg-OcxwIVS5MeCh31zAej#v=onepage&q=james%20chenoweth%20%22university%20of%20louisville%22&f=false.  He was from Jefferson County, Kentucky (the county in which Louisville is located) and would have been no more than 26 or 27 at the time of this lecture.  Louisville is about 60 miles from Mitchell, Indiana, where the earliest previously known modern example of "full/whole nine yards" is found, from 1907.

John Baker

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

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