Etymology of "Eighty-Six"

Arnold Zwicky zwicky at STANFORD.EDU
Fri Nov 7 19:24:57 UTC 2008

On Nov 7, 2008, at 10:36 AM, John-Patrick wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       John-Patrick <email1 at FOLKLORE.MS>
> Subject:      Re: Etymology of "Eighty-Six"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Greetings,
> I have read that the 86 comes from military parlance as Article 86 of
> the Uniform Military Code that deals with "Absent Without Leave
> (AWOL)".  When something is sold out it in a restaurant it is also
> "Absent without Leave".   Any evidence for this?

well, Article 86 of the UMCJ does indeed concern AWOL (and Article 82,
Desertion).  but making the connection to the diner code will take
some work.

just asking the question about the diner code encourages people to
free-asociate to the number 86; on the net, you can find references to
Mawell Smart (Agent 86 on "Get Smart") and the Military Remains Act of
1886, and a creative tale (offered here by Kenneth Setzer on 23 June
1999 and asserted with great assurance by one poster on the Urban
Dictionary site) about a speakeasy Chumley's (at 86 Bedford St.)
during Prohibition.  no doubt there's more.


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