whole nine yards

Herb Stahlke hstahlke at GW.BSU.EDU
Wed Jun 28 02:21:44 UTC 2000


I can't help you on the source for phrase origins, beyond suggesting the legal series that's been around for at least a century, Words and Phrases, but that will address only those that have been adjudicated and may not deal with origins.

As to "the whole nine yards," the best explanation I've found is that the ammunition belts for a WWII Spitfire were nine yards long.  If a pilot emptied his magazines in a dog fight, he had shot the whole nine yards.  I can't give you a source for this.

Herb Stahlke

<<< zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU  6/27  8:35p >>>
for a friend who's not on this list (and is not a linguist,
linguist-wannabe, or even linguistics-hanger-on), i'm asking
two questions, a general one and a particular one.  i think
we might have discussed the general question here.  i'm almost
positive we've discussed the specific question here, but i find
nothing on it in the archives or in the faq.

so i'm sort of embarrassed to be asking.  anyway...

1.  are there any reliable compendia of phrase origins, with
reasonably broad coverage?  something you would recommend to
someone like my friend?  (i have a couple of the old funk volumes -
A Word in Your Ear, and A Hog on Ice - and of course a fair number
of phrases are treated in unabridged dictionaries, in DARE, in
lighter, etc., but i don't have anything that would suit my
friend's needs.  but then phrase origins is a topic way way off
my academic interests.)

2.  specifically, what about THE WHOLE NINE YARDS?  the ADS blurb
for its faq mentions the expression, but then i found nothing in
the faq about it.  (this could well be an incompetence in my web
mastery, of course.)  is there a good discussion of this particular
expression, especially a discussion someplace accessible to the

arnold (zwicky at csli.stanford.edu)

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