Discovery on "Whole Nine Yards"

Fred Shapiro fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Mon Apr 26 03:06:25 UTC 2004

I have discovered some significant new evidence on "whole nine yards."

Stephen Goranson has energetically promoted the theory that "whole nine
yards" derives from "yards" referring to the Montagnard tribes in Vietnam.
I don't think too many people find this convincing, but Mr. Goranson has
performed the useful service of emphasizing that all the earliest known
citations were from a Vietnam War context, suggesting some kind of
Vietnam-related origin.

However, I have now found what I believe is the second oldest occurrence
of "whole nine yards" (Elaine Shepard's 1967 Vietnam-related book _Doom
Pussy_ is the oldest known). yields the following:

1969 _Playground Daily News_ (Fort Walton Beach, Fla.) 25 Apr. 15
(advertisement)  This home has the "whole nine yards" in convenience.

It is of course possible that "whole nine yards" could have disseminated
from a Vietnam origin to Florida in the three or more years between when
it was first used in the Vietnam War and 1969.  However, 1969 is early
enough to suggest that the term may have originated in the United States
rather than in Indochina.

Fred Shapiro

Fred R. Shapiro                             Editor
Associate Librarian for Collections and     YALE DICTIONARY OF QUOTATIONS
  Access and Lecturer in Legal Research     Yale University Press,
Yale Law School                             forthcoming
e-mail: fred.shapiro at     

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