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The Whole Nine Yards: 500 rounds? 
Posted: 05 January 2011 12:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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The regulation equipment for a fully-equipped British archer at the battle of Agincourt (1415) was: “1 longbow of yew; 3 strings therefor; 1 quiver (leather) with strap; 9 clothyard arrows, goose feathered, steel tipt”. Breeches were optional: to be worn if one had them. (see Dorrington Ms. 1416/233g, P.M. 244b, Brit. Mus.). In a busy set-to like Agincourt, an archer would be expected to shoot off “ye whole nine yardes” within the first 1 or 2 minutes or so of battle. If there were any Frenchmen left standing after this, he could collect another standard quiverful from the armourer’s mate, and polish them off.

This statement is about as well attested as any from WW2. Better, if anything - for we know, without needing any laborious, hopelessly contrived calculations, that 9 arrows were precisely “9 yards”.

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Posted: 05 January 2011 08:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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I’m having trouble with someone speaking of “yards of ammunition” in a B-29 Superfortress.  Specifically I’m having trouble with the psychology of going from metal boxes each containing 1,000 rounds of ammunition to the theoretical length of the ammunition if it were taken out of the box and laid out on the floor.  Who on the airplane would care how long it is?  As a practical matter, the only thing that counts is how many rounds you have.  I really can’t picture an airman saying he went through “yards” of ammunition when he knows it came out of a box with “1,000 rounds” stenciled on it, but I can picture him talking about “tons” or “a shitload” or “thousands of rounds”.

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Posted: 05 January 2011 10:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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They certainly laid the ammunition belts out on the ground. Here is a picture of the belts for a B-29 laid out in preparation for loading: http://www.olive-drab.com/images/ammo_50cal_belts_b29_1944nov29_375.jpg But as near as I can tell, a belt was always given as so and so many rounds. You’d need to find a citation of someone from the appropriate era describing a belt as a certain number of yards long before this theory becomes plausible.

[ Edited: 06 January 2011 07:46 AM by kauffner ]
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Posted: 19 July 2011 12:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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it’s not too much to say that there might be something to this explanation.

Welcome to this forum, jdmesshc14. I doubt of you’ll find many people here who will agree with you about that. But no matter - many of us have hobby horses of one kind or another, including some deadly serious ones and some seriously dead ones, which we trot (or drag) out and flog from time to time.

;-)

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Posted: 19 July 2011 03:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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Except the phrase is not a British one, it’s American. So for that to work, the phrase must have never been written down by any British airman during the whole of the war, despite being popular enough to be taken up by Americans without a context, and then not written down by any Americans for another twenty years.

The problem with the machine gun hypothesis is not the whether or not the aircraft carried an amount of ammunition that measured out to the specified length, but that there is no evidence for it. The phrase appears in the U. S. in the early 1960s, first in references to long lists and inventories. Normally, I would not be so confident about the gaps actually meaning the phrase didn’t exist. But this phrase has been so thoroughly researched and searched for that it is virtually impossible that there are earlier uses yet to be found. If it had been used prior to the 1960s, someone would have discovered it by now.

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Posted: 19 July 2011 09:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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I recall hearing, years ago, that the origin of the phrase: “the whole nine yards” referred to the carrying capacity of a cement truck’s yd^3 carrying capacity or dump truck’s yd^3 carrying capacity of soil, rock, or gravel.  I think I heard this in Boston, Ma., in the mid 1960’s. 

I also heard that this is folk etymology, along with the “yards of ammo” idea. 

I also heard it was related to the ‘fact’ that nine yards of beer will kill a man if he were to drink it in one fell swoop.

Etymonline offers:

1960s, originally U.S. military slang, of unknown origin; perhaps from concrete mixer trucks, which were said to have dispensed in this amount. Or the yard may be in the slang sense of “one hundred dollars.” Several similar phrases meaning “Everything” arose in the 1940s (whole ball of wax, which is likewise of obscure origin, whole schmear); older examples include whole hog (see hog) and whole shooting match (1896) whole shebang (1895).

I think I’ll go with the beer derivation.  At least it’s something that seems like fun…

edit: changed yd^2-->yd^3, thanks to jtab4994

[ Edited: 20 July 2011 05:31 AM by sobiest ]
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Posted: 20 July 2011 05:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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I think you want “yd^3” for “cubic yards”.

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Posted: 20 July 2011 05:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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Oops.  Stupid error.  Just changed it.

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Posted: 20 July 2011 08:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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When I read ‘Nine Yards: 500 rounds’ in the subject line I first though it meant that we had now discussed it 500 times.

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Posted: 21 July 2011 07:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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from what I have read, the first usage as “the whole thing” is in the early sixties. One source says “as the teenagers say, ‘ the whole nine yards’ “

cited in Wikipedia, which more or less contains much of the discussion here.

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

When I was kid in the fifties, hopscotch courts had 9 squares and a rest square at the top.  I don’t remember anyone saying “the whole nine yards” but I do recall mention of “all nine squares.”

probably a dead end, but I have not seen this connection proffered yet.

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