on my six

Geoffrey S. Nathan an6993 at WAYNE.EDU
Fri May 14 10:13:07 UTC 2010

This is one of Wilson's 'WAG's', but 'on my six' must derive from the directional terminology related to clocks (referred to later in the post with respect to sailing).

If so, it dates back at least to WW II, because it would be parallel to such phrases as 'twelve o'clock high' (i.e. directly in front of, and above you, used in aerial combat). A well-known book with the latter title appeared in 1948, with a movie of it made the next year. 'On my six' would, of course, mean 'directly behind me'. The use of possessives with the construction is common.

I suspect the use is much older than that.

Geoffrey S. Nathan
Faculty Liaison, C&IT
and Associate Professor, Linguistics Program
+1 (313) 577-1259 (C&IT)
+1 (313) 577-8621 (English/Linguistics)

----- "victor steinbok" <aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM> wrote:

> From: "victor steinbok" <aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM>
> Sent: Friday, May 14, 2010 12:25:11 AM GMT -05:00 US/Canada Eastern
> Subject: on my six
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       victor steinbok <aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      on my six
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Not in OED: on my six == behind me, follow me
> In OED: six == six-cylinder engine (in particular, occurs in the
> combination "on my six")
> Not in OED: six == touchdown in American football
> In OED: six == six-run score in cricket, esp. when ball is over the
> boundary
> Just heard the expression "on my six" used in the latest episode of
> the Fringe. The specific reference was, "You two--on my six." Perhaps
> it's just the usual recency issue, but the phrase appears to be
> occurring with increasing frequency in TV police dramas and various
> other para-military and military-themed shows. Wiki glossary of Naval
> slang lists
> > On my six: Naval aviation expression referring to having someone or
> thing at my back, on my tail, directely behind me, relative to the
> hours of a clock; 12-dead ahead, 3-starboard or to the right, 6 aft or
> behind and 9-port or to the left.
> I have no idea if this goes back to WWII or earlier or started
> strictly in Vietnam.

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