on my six

Victor Steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Fri May 14 11:22:57 UTC 2010

I am quite certain that you description is accurate--and matches the
Wiktionary description. As I only have an incomplete search to offer as
evidence, the phrase appears in one novel that describes the Vietnam War
period--since the novel is published in 2007, there is no way to tell if
it the term is anachronistic, but it seems unlikely. Further search is
bound to reveal earlier occurrences.

However, given that its an aviation term, it seems doubtful that its
origin goes back much earlier than WWII. Naval aviation is just not that
old. Again, I am making an assumption here that the attachment to
specifically /Naval/ aviation is accurate. Certainly the use of clock
metaphors for directions is common in Naval aviation, as you suggest.

However, my point remains the same--I found no OED entry that suggests
"six" as a direction, irrespectively of whether it's a part of the
expression "on my six" or on its own. There /is/ an entry for "six
o'clock", as a direction, under C. 5., going back to 1684.


On 5/14/2010 6:13 AM, Geoffrey S. Nathan wrote:
> 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.

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