[Ads-l] "The whole nine yards" in Henry County, Kentucky, 1908, 1914, 1923

Bonnie Taylor-Blake b.taylorblake at GMAIL.COM
Sat Mar 25 13:43:57 UTC 2023

Nothing really to write home about, but here are some early uses of "the
whole nine yards" coming out of Henry County, Kentucky in 1908 and 1914.
These are contemporaneous with uses of "the full/whole nine yards" in
Mitchell, Indiana, and "the whole six yards" in Mt. Vernon, Kentucky.

You'll find Henry County between Louisville and Cincinnati and a little
northwest of Frankfort, Kentucky, where someone I've interviewed about the
expression mentioned hearing it growing up there in the '30s. The county
is, as the crow flies, about 70 miles southeast of Mitchell and 120 miles
northwest of Mt. Vernon.

I probably shouldn't focus too much on the idiom's early distribution in
Indiana and Kentucky, because we have evidence of its use in Arkansas,
South Carolina, Georgia within a decade, which suggests it may have been
fairly widespread across the South and Upland South by, say, ca. 1905 (and
earlier), but that it didn't make it into newspapers that often.

But at least these appearances add to our understanding of how folks were
using the idiom 100+ years ago.

-- Bonnie


One of our young men was greatly puzzled last Saturday at Glen Mary. He
left his best girl in the buggy to hold the horse while he went in the
store to buy candy and tulu. When he came out his girl and rig were gone.
Some one had stolen the whole nine yards. My! How he did sprint until he
overtook them. The other fellow said he was just fooling as he had one of
his own.

(From news out of Glen Mary, Henry County Local, New Castle, Kentucky, 15
May 1908, p. 4. This is a very slight antedating of an appearance of "the
whole nine yards" in a June, 1908 issue of The Mitchell Commercial. Still,
Mitchell's "the full nine yards" bests this by a year.)


"As my time expires today for the Local, you will find enclosed check for
$1.25. I will take the whole nine yards." [This whole souled gentleman
means he wants the Local and 4 magazines -- Ed.]

(From "Letters," Henry County Local, 27 March 1914, p. 8. The letter-writer
was in tiny Gest, Kentucky, 15-ish miles north of Frankfort.)


Fishback made his final bow to high school athletics. He stood grandly
thruout the whoe [sic] nine yards. He struck out twelve men and scored one
of the two baggers for the home team; his work well deserves praise.

(From Richard F. Moody's "Eminence" column, reporting on the last baseball
game of the season for the high school. Henry County Local, 1 June 1923, p.

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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