Roots: The Whole Nine Yards

For some reason this little euphemism has me peeved. Usually, it is in reference to “going all the way” or “going all out” or “giving it everything you’ve got”. But where, and when, did this term come into being? What references exist for this term and are there any facts to support it?I started my digital digging on a number of sites and reference books. Here are some of the possible sources of “the whole nine yards”:

  • Fabric bolts have nine yards of fabric – False; on average they have 20-25 yrds.
  • A mans 3 piece suit requires exactly 9 yards of fabric – False because not all men are the same size
  • An old time sailing ship had 3 masts with 3 yards each – False as they often had 12-18 yards in total
  • Football term used to get to the next down – False, a down is 10 yards away, not 9
  • Scottish kilts were made with 9 yards of fabric – False as the average was 4-8 yards and varied greatly depending on the weaver

There are plausible ones as well. A machine gun magazine ribbon from WWII was 9 yards long. Also, the first reference in print to ‘the whole 9’ was in the early 60’s. So this is a plausible beginning for the term.

I haven’t found an answer yet to it so Ill keep looking. If anyone has any info that would fit let me know.


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