Etymology of "Eighty-Six"

Michael Adams madams1448 at AOL.COM
Fri Nov 7 19:55:16 UTC 2008

The?numerical code appears to have been around?as early as the?'20s,?and there's no evidence that 86 is the first item of it, so none of the origins from other 86s seems plausible to me. That's why I've always suspected the rhyming slang explanation -- it's an explanation for one item, not the?code. If the code is arbitrary?in all other cases, why does 86 need?further explanation? I've been watching out for any pre-1920s evidence, especially UK evidence, that might support 86 as?the original item of the code. In that case, it might come from another 86?and even be rhyming slang, with the rest of the code subsequently?formed imitatively, without any further?rationale for assigning any number to any thing.

Nothing has popped up, though, and I may be watching out for a long time to come.


-----Original Message-----
From: Arnold Zwicky <zwicky at STANFORD.EDU>
Sent: Fri, 7 Nov 2008 2:24 pm
Subject: Re: Etymology of "Eighty-Six"

On Nov 7, 2008, at 10:36 AM, John-Patrick wrote:?
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> Sender: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>?
> Poster: John-Patrick <email1 at FOLKLORE.MS>?
> Subject: Re: Etymology of "Eighty-Six"?
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> 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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