Discovery on "Whole Nine Yards"

Jesse Sheidlower jester at PANIX.COM
Mon Apr 26 03:40:37 UTC 2004

On Sun, Apr 25, 2004 at 11:06:25PM -0400, Fred Shapiro wrote:
> 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.

Keeping in mind that your cite is actually the
third-earliest--there's a 1968 cite in one of the _Current
Slang_ volumes, from the U.S. Air Force Academy--and that Fort
Walton Beach, Florida is the home of an Air Force base, I'd
suggest we're still looking at an Air Force origin for this.

Jesse Sheidlower

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