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Origin of "Whole 9 Yards" is......unknown?


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Like a lot of others, I'm sure, I have been repeatedly told that the phrase "the whole 9 yards" is based upon the 27 foot length of certain machine gun ammo belts (the type and age of the gun has varied with the teller of the tale).

 

Now, I find out that there is NO generally accepted explanation for the origin of this phrase, despite being attributed to the length of cloth in a kilt, the cubic capacity of cement mixers, the full set of yardarms on a 3 masted schooner, and even as an expression of a failed endeavor, i.e., coming up one yard short of a first down.

 

Described elsewhere as the leading etymological mystery of our age.

 

Sheese...I really liked the ammo belt story. Sometimes I think that we are sharing too much information, and destroying our pleasant fictions.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_whole_nine_yards

 

LL

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Whole nine yards comes from sailing days. A three masted ship had three sails or yards per mast. When all were deployed they were using the "Whole Nine Yards"

 

Most "saying" originated with either sailors or flyers......

 

Balls to the Walls.........Two origins.....Steam Engines have a governor that uses a pair of balls that spin. If the seam engine is running to the max, the balls could break off and hit the walls.......Could have come from steam trains or steam boats....

A second source is WWII pilots flying back from bombing Germany. They put the four throttle "balls" to the "wall" to get the hell out of Berlin.

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Whole nine yards comes from sailing days. A three masted ship had three sails or yards per mast. When all were deployed they were using the "Whole Nine Yards"

 

Most "saying" originated with either sailors or flyers......

 

Balls to the Walls.........Two origins.....Steam Engines have a governor that uses a pair of balls that spin. If the seam engine is running to the max, the balls could break off and hit the walls.......Could have come from steam trains or steam boats....

A second source is WWII pilots flying back from bombing Germany. They put the four throttle "balls" to the "wall" to get the hell out of Berlin.

So a two-master could only give the whole six yards? :D
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Not if it was a schooner then it could only give you two booms and a couple of gaffs

baboom boom

What about a bark?
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Whole nine yards comes from sailing days. A three masted ship had three sails or yards per mast. When all were deployed they were using the "Whole Nine Yards"

 

Most "saying" originated with either sailors or flyers......

 

Balls to the Walls.........Two origins.....Steam Engines have a governor that uses a pair of balls that spin. If the seam engine is running to the max, the balls could break off and hit the walls.......Could have come from steam trains or steam boats....

A second source is WWII pilots flying back from bombing Germany. They put the four throttle "balls" to the "wall" to get the hell out of Berlin.

 

The term is atually, "balls out" and refers to heavy round balls attached to hinged arms on a steam engine's verticle axis, acting like a weighted flywheel. The more rpm's the engine churns, the balls are swung out further until they are almost, or actually are, horizontal to the verticle axis. The weight of the balls assists in spinning the engine, making it more efficient and producing more power. So, when the steam engine was producing at highest capacity, the engine was said to be going "balls out." I believe that the later incarnation of the idiom, "balls to the wall" was simply a bastardization of the original that sounded cooler and rhymes.

 

Today, either term, the original or the revised version are used for a variety of dramatic pursposes:

To say that someone or something, like a race car or race horse, for instance, is going very fast

To say that a machine is working at maximum (the original meaning)

To say that someone is trying extra hard

To say that something is being accomplished sooner than expected

etc.

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The term is atually, "balls out" and refers to heavy round balls attached to hinged arms on a steam engine's verticle axis, acting like a weighted flywheel. The more rpm's the engine churns, the balls are swung out further until they are almost, or actually are, horizontal to the verticle axis. The weight of the balls assists in spinning the engine, making it more efficient and producing more power. So, when the steam engine was producing at highest capacity, the engine was said to be going "balls out." I believe that the later incarnation of the idiom, "balls to the wall" was simply a bastardization of the original that sounded cooler and rhymes.

 

Today, either term, the original or the revised version are used for a variety of dramatic pursposes:

To say that someone or something, like a race car or race horse, for instance, is going very fast

To say that a machine is working at maximum (the original meaning)

To say that someone is trying extra hard

To say that something is being accomplished sooner than expected

etc.

 

What you are talking about is a Centrifugal "Fly-Ball" governor. It's purpose is to throttle down an engine to prevent over-spinning.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=HS_YGZXP2xY

 

www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=HS_YGZXP2xY

 

 

The Flyball Governor ( or Centrifugal Governor ) shown in this video is animation of this device from a steam engine. Power is supplied to the governor from the engine's output shaft by a belt connected to the flywheel. The governor is connected to a throttle valve that regulates the flow of steam supplying the prime mover. This in turn regulates amount of pressure acting on the piston. As the speed of the prime mover increases, the central spindle of the governor rotates at a faster rate and the kinetic energy of the balls increases. This allows the two masses on lever arms to move outwards and upwards against gravity. If the motion goes far enough, this motion causes the lever arms to pull down on a grooved collar, which moves a operating arm, which reduces the aperture of a throttle valve. The rate of working-fluid entering the cylinder is thus adjusted and the speed of the prime mover is settled in new position, preventing over-speeding or stalling the engine.

Mechanical stops may be used to limit the range of throttle motion which is not shown in this animation.

http://www.mekanizmalar.com/flyball_governor.html

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http://www.nytimes.c...wanted=all&_r=0

 

I call BS on this whole article about machine guns. I've read a couple of book written well before machine guns were invented where sailors used the term "Whole Nine Yards".....I live here in New Bedford area and have been a student of the Whaling Industry for over 40 years. Read everything I can find about that era.........

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BTW, I had someone once tell me that "Whole Nine Yards" referred to Football..........At the one yard line, you need nine yards for a first down......"We need to go the whole nine yards"........Nope........Sorry!

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Not that I should join in here but...

 

I think we can lend some credit to the term "the whole nine yards" to all the servicemen who served in WWII and came back and brought it to the public at large's attention.

 

We just won't call it the "origin" of the phrase. WWII brought a lot of uncommon jargon into mainstream parlance after GI's returned home.

 

My understanding, as well, was that it originated from the Whaling Industry.

 

Just my 2 cents. I hate to not give credit to WWI and WWII vets who found its usage appropriate when referring to the lengths of certain machine guns. ;)

 

--Ferrit

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Whole nine yards comes from sailing days. A three masted ship had three sails or yards per mast. When all were deployed they were using the "Whole Nine Yards"

 

Most "saying" originated with either sailors or flyers......

 

Balls to the Walls.........Two origins.....Steam Engines have a governor that uses a pair of balls that spin. If the seam engine is running to the max, the balls could break off and hit the walls.......Could have come from steam trains or steam boats....

A second source is WWII pilots flying back from bombing Germany. They put the four throttle "balls" to the "wall" to get the hell out of Berlin.

 

Please see the original post; unfortunately, this explanation has also been discarded. It's a great mystery!

 

LL

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This one goes around a nd around every so often.

 

These guys have "an answer", but not the definitive one either . . . . though they do have a lot of mind boggling stuff: http://www.wordorigins.org/index.php/more/573/

 

SC

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Just so there's no mistake...I'm inventing a new slang term...."Nine ball to the wall".....it's when a sailor, or an aviator, hits any ball off the pool table during a game of nine all into a nearby wall in a car being pulled by a steam train. It's a common misconception that it has to be the nine ball itself, but can actually be any of the balls. You heard it here first

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Just so there's no mistake...I'm inventing a new slang term...."Nine ball to the wall".....it's when a sailor, or an aviator, hits any ball off the pool table during a game of nine all into a nearby wall in a car being pulled by a steam train. It's a common misconception that it has to be the nine ball itself, but can actually be any of the balls. You heard it here first

 

But what if they hit the "whole nine ball yards into the wall?"

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It actually comes from a joke dating back to the mid 1850's. You can find it published in the Atchison, KA Squatter Sovereign of 8 May 1855, the Steubenville, OH True American of 22 March 1855, or the Ebensburg, PA Democrat and Sentinel of 15 Feb 1855.

 

THE JUDGE'S BIG SHIRT.
The story goes that, on a certain occasion, Judge A____ , then on a visit to Raleigh. N. C, was notorious for leaving home without the necessary precaution of carrying along a second shirt.
While there, he was invited to attend a gay and fashionable party, to be given the following evening, at the residence of Judge B____ . The visiting judge was terribly perplexed about a clean shirt for the occasion, and while revolving in his mind how he should possess himself of the desired article, (in those days ready made shirts were not, as now, articles of merchandise,) he was called on at his room by Mr. C____ , another limb of the law, but not a judge.
After passing the usual compliments, Judge A____ remarked "See here, C____ , I have just been invited to attend a party to-morrow night, and I haven't a clean shirt for the occasion," hoping, no doubt, that his friend would proffer the loan of one of his. But being a bit of a wag, and relishing a good joke amazingly, he concluded to have a little fun, and at the same time learn his judicial friend a lesson concerning his negligent custom.
"O," sail he, there's no difficulty about that. I can have you one made."
"But do you think it can be finished in time?" said the judge.
"No doubt about it. I have a shirt maker who is perfectly prompt and reliable, and I can vouch for its being ready."
"All right, then, if you'll be sure and attend to it."
"You may depend on it. It shall be here by half past six to-morrow evening."
B____, on going home that night, called at the lady's, and ordered her to go to the store, get nine yards of bleached cloth and three yards of linen, and make a shirt of it for Judge A , and deliver it at his room on the following evening at half past six precisely, and charging her particularly that there was to be no disappointment, and not to deliver sooner or later than half past six.
"But, Mr. B____ ," expostulated the woman, "you mean three shirts, don't you, out of nine yards?"
"Do as I tell you, madam. Don't you suppose I know what size shirt is required by my friend?"
Early the next morning the cloth was procured, and the making of the shirt entered upon.
About six o'clock in the evening, C____, all attired and ready for the party, called on the judge, when he was saluted on his entrance with "See here, that shirt has not been sent yet."
"O," says C____ pulling out his watch, "it is not time yet; it lacks a quarter to the time, for I told her to have it here by half past six."
The couple chatted away awhile, when presently a timid knock at the door was heard.
The judge jumped to open it, when a little girl asked if that was Judge A____'s room.
"All right my nice little miss," and the judge began to prepare for donning the much coveted garment, remarking "It is well made and handsomely done up, too. Smart woman that Mrs. C____."
"O, yes; I knew she would not disappoint you in any respect."
By this time the judge had commenced pulling it over him. He pulled and pulled, as yard after yard passed, and still his head was enveloped in the shirt. He complained of its size, but his friend told him he had got it twisted, but to hurry it on, as 'twas time they were at the party.
Again he set himself to the task, and by hard struggling got through, finding him self enshrouded in a shirt five yards long and four yards broad, covering the floor with its ample drapery.
"In God's name!" said the judge, in astonishment, "what is this the woman has sent me?" looking with consternation upon the monstrous shirt around and beneath him. "What is it, I say?"
It was with much difficulty that C____ could restrain his laughter, but approaching his enshirted friend, and pulling the huge collar down so that he could see his face, he gazed with apparent wonder, and observed "What a silly, stupid woman! I told her to get just enough to make three shirts; instead of making three, she has put the whole nine yards into one shirt! - But we must hurry up and make the best of a bad bargain, for it is high time we were at the party this minute. You can push it down your trousers, and nobody will be the wiser."
So at it the judge went, his friend assisting him, as yard after yard - was piled away in his unmentionables - they didn't wear tights in those days and thus he went to Judge B____'s party, if not the finest dressed, at least the largest shirted gentleman the crowd.
C____ promised never to "blow" on his judicial friend, and kept his word, until he learned that the judge was compelled to tell it on himself, for unfortunately he carried the big shirt home, and Mrs. Judge wanted to know what tremendous big woman's shift that was in his trunk.
He had to out with it; and it being told him by the judge himself, Mr. C____ felt at liberty to tell it also, which he sometimes does, to the infinite merriment of all who hear him.
:D:D:D:D
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NIce call, but I find it hard to belive that a line from an anecdote published in two obscure periodicals made it's way so deeply into the American lexicon.

You'd have thought there would be references from the Civil War just a few years later.

Possible though. Anything is possible.

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Oh, I don't believe that is the origin of the story. I found it fun, if silly, use of the phrase. Based on the early references, I tend to believe it has to do with baseball and whether the teams would be able to play the whole 9 innings at the yard before darkness or some other event caused the game to be called. Second choice would be for a square master hoisting the whole nine yards.

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Howdy,

I see no reason why there couldn't be multiple sources for a saying.

The whole nine yards could be from sailing. Fine.

However many folks don't have anything to do with sailing.

They could have the same saying from being trained on machine guns during the war.

And the number 9 indicates a maximum all by itself.

Its the biggest number.

Just some thoughts.

Best

CR

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