google book search dates (Qumran; nine yards)

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Sun May 21 11:15:56 UTC 2006

Though many here are more experienced in electronic searching than I, I thought
to mention that the google book advanced search doesn't always give accurate
dates. No big surprise, perhaps, but a bit of a shame, since the database is
big and rapidly-growing. On the other hand, false dates are usually false early
ones that can often be easily discounted. Here, a few notes on two searches.

1) Qumran is the name of the ruins (khirbeh in Arabic) surrounded by the eleven
caves where Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Most scholars agree (though some
energetically and often tendentiously dissent) that a Jewish sectarian group,
the Essenes, lived there. Qumran (with various spellings and a disputed
meaning) is the Arabic name of the site. It's mentioned in various
pre-scroll-discovery accounts, accounts which may help archaeologists determine
the function of the settlement. (E.g., Joan Taylor, "Khirbet Qumran in the
Nineteenth Century and the Name of the Site," Palestine Exploration Quarterly
134 [2002] 144-64.) Google search gave an 1889 date for a mention of a "Qumran
community," but that turned out to be the date the journal cited began
publication; the text was really written after the 1948 scroll discoveries.

2) The pre-1966 silence on "whole nine yards" is reconfirmed by google, again
underlining the likely significance of a 1966 origin setting. (The 1967 book
was written in 1966 in Vietnam and mentions and pictures Montagnards.) Perhaps
experienced searchers will try again. The phrase original setting was likely in
Vietnam, where the new sense of Montagnards as 'yards appeared (and where R.
Mole's handbook on nine tribes of Montagnards was distributed). The odd sense
of 'yards helps explain why the meaning was lost. Google does give one 1829
ballad citation for "full nine yards" of chain loaded into a cannon, but in
context it doesn't carry the contemporary connotation. Google gives a 1973 US
Congress Defence appropriation hearing usage: "... at the other end, scrubbing
the ?whole nine yards? of requirements to the minimum that will still
enable the system to fill the operational need. ..."  If I can say one more
thing about this: I think any Air Force (or airplane) connection is less
important (other than as tradents) than the function of its sense of service.
This early on includes various forms of service. I suggest: Montagnard service
as allies and helpers, assistants. Additionally: barbering, housekeeping,
laundry, shoe-shining, making beds, household conveniences, scrubbing, complete
uniform decorations, full show, full service.

Stephen Goranson

The American Dialect Society -

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