Info on Nine Yards / MG

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Fri Dec 28 17:09:48 UTC 2012

On Fri, Dec 28, 2012 at 11:44 AM, Guy Letourneau wrote:
> Now, have we debunked the folk etymology about "9 yards to make a Great
> Kilt?" (buying all 9 yards meant you bought the 'whole thing,' the
> universal garment, sleeping blanket, and serviceable for all the other
> folksy things people might do in or with a kilt?)

Of the folk etymologies that remain plausible, I'm still partial to
the Scottish kilt one, regardless of how much material is actually
needed to make a kilt. I think it could have come into oral use via
the previously discussed shaggy-dog story/song about the kilt-wearing
Scotsman who inadvertently flashes his sweetheart and responds to her
expression of astonishment with "The whole N yards?" or "That's
nothing! I've got N more yards at home!"

Perhaps all the Scottish migration to Kentucky and thereabouts helped
spread the tale.


Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list