Discovery on "Whole Nine Yards"

sagehen sagehen at WESTELCOM.COM
Wed Apr 28 15:25:21 UTC 2004

Stephen Goranson writes:
>I don't know if the below was addressed to me, or Fred Shapiro, or the list.
>On a two out of three chance, I'll respond.
>No, I wouldn't expect to find "all nine yards" in the earliest uses, as I
>responded onlist 16 Jan 04. I propose not 9 individuals but nine groups.
>Compare "the whole/full 9 battalions" or the like.
>I can't speak for how the phrase "always seems to suggest" to you "a certain
>dimension or area," but I can suggest that meanings of "yard" such as a lenght
>or an area are not the attested meaning of yards as Montagnards. Though we do
>have a specified area for these 1966 named nine tribes, I Corps, Northern
>South Vietnam, in an account of 9 tribes addressed specifically to GIs. If you
>wish to imagine the possibility, try the phrase with the proposed meaning.
>Moving from hypothetical to the time and place of the phrase as a fait
>Some pretty good researchers have looked, and the phrase has not been found
>before 1966, in Vietnam. To suggest that 9 here is a use of a mystical number
>neglects to account for its appearence at this late date; nor does it
>explain "yards." Furthermore, I suggest, if you are looking for a mystic, look
>elsewhere than "Smash" Crandell/Chandler.
>I suggest it helps to read the complete book The Doom Pussy (the 1967 book,
>not the 1989/1991 sequel) and to read some of the anthropological teaching
>works of Robert Mole, who was there, then.
>Quoting sagehen <sagehen at WESTELCOM.COM>:
>> If the Montagnard tribes  was the true original referent, wouldn't you
>> expect to find the earliest uses of "nine yards" to be "all nine yards"?
>> "Whole nine yards" and "full nine yards" always seems to suggest a single
>> entity with a certain dimension or area as the referent.
>> A. Murie

I wasn't ignoring the use of the term "yards" in reference to Montagnards,
either individually or in tribes, or even questioning the expression "whole
nine yards" in this connection in Vietnam; just wondering if it mightn't
have had an earlier life that provided it as a coincidentally appropriate
phrase for use there.  My reason  was simply that we ordinarily use "whole"
in application to a single entity, but "all" referring to the parts of an
If "the whole/full 9 battalions" is or was in ordinary usage, rather than
"the whole/full division", that certainly lends color to the Vietnam
As for the imputation that I sought some "mystical" meaning of 9, I am
completely mystified.
A Murie

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