Front-Page New York Times Story on "The Whole Nine Yards"

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Thu Dec 27 16:33:18 UTC 2012

Condemned to join Larry on the level of semi-devil's advocates --

It was just Barry's "average" concrete mixer that a capacity of four
and a half cubic yards "just a few years ago" before 1964.  But "six
yards" implies a large quantity.  What about the *largest* concrete
mixers of 1912?

And if one believes that there were no concrete mixers before the
patent of 1916, were there haulers of other mass contents having a
capacity of 6 cubic yards in 1912?  Trucks for construction or
destruction projects carrying sand or dirt?  Or garbage
trucks?    Fred's first find is:

"But there is one thing sure, we dems would never have known that
there was such crookedness in the Republican party if Ted and Taft had
not got crossed at each other.  Just wait boys until the fix gets to a
fever heat and they will tell the whole six yards."

Characterizing the "whole six yards" of what the complete story will
reveal as "a great quantity of filth (crookedness)"?

"The whole nine yards" surely is just even more garbage than the
whole six.  And I don't see the evidence that "six" is *necessarily*
"just a random number", as Jesse is quoted as saying.

Joel Berson, amateur word freak and ferociously competitive antedater.

At 12/27/2012 09:40 AM, Laurence Horn wrote:
>On Dec 27, 2012, at 9:24 AM, Shapiro, Fred wrote:
> > Although as a teenager about 40 years ago I spent a summer
> inspecting concrete pouring on a construction site, I don't know
> anything about concrete trucks.  I also don't believe in spending
> energy disproving colorful unsubstantiated etymologies that, as I
> say in the New York Times article, are almost always
> fallacious.  I'll just note that an anti-concrete-truck-etymology
> argument may perhaps be based on the capacity of concrete trucks in
> 1912 not being 6 cubic yards.  I don't know for sure that that's
> correct, but, quoting, says the following:
> >
> > "Newspaper columnist and language commentator James Kirkpatrick
> favors the explanation that it is a reference to the capacity of
> ready-mix concrete trucks (Fine Print: Reflections on the Writing
> Art). Safire also plumps for this explanation. This explanation,
> however, is somewhat questionable as the August 1964 issue of Ready
> Mixed Concrete magazine gives an average concrete mixer as having a
> capacity of four and a half cubic yards "just a few years ago" and
> an average of under six and a half in 1962. A 1988 source (Cecil
> Adams in More of the Straight Dope), states current mixers range
> from seven to ten cubic yards, with a rough average of nine. While
> current averages may be on target, when the phrase arose, the
> average cement payload was less than four and a half cubic yards.
> So the cement truck explanation is probably incorrect."
> >
> > A seemingly stronger piece of evidence, if correct, is this
> statement from Wikipedia:
> >
> > "Stephen Stepanian filed a patent application for the first truck
> mixer in 1916."
> >
> >
>True, that would knock out the putative source, which may well be
>yet another etymythology.  But if I were to play devil's
>semi-advocate for the concrete contingent that the existence of
>concrete mixers (with the appropriate capacity) might have served as
>part of the trajectory for the expression, in the same way that (as
>Read pointed out) the Van Buren "O[ld] K[inderhook]" campaign was
>part of the trajectory for the success of "O.K.", which had begun a
>few years earlier as a jocular newspaper abbreviation for "Oll Korrect".
> > ________________________________________
> > From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] on behalf
> of Dan Goncharoff [thegonch at GMAIL.COM]
> > Sent: Wednesday, December 26, 2012 7:56 PM
> > Subject: Re: Front-Page New York Times Story on "The Whole Nine Yards"
> >
> > Great article. I have to say, though, that I remain confused. As both 6
> > cubic yards and nine cubic yards are standard sizes for hauling, how does
> > the shift from 6 to 9 refute the cubic yard theory?

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