BL: The Whole Nine Yards
Posted: 17 December 2013 06:59 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I seem to update this entry every December.

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Posted: 17 December 2013 11:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Was it unusual for Robert E. Wegner, author of the short story “Man on the Thresh-Hold” in the Michigan Voices quarterly, and presumably an American, to spell “pyjama” the British way?  I also think it’s kind of unusual to spell “Thresh-Hold” like that.  I know this thread is about TWNY but I’m also curious about those other two items.

Edit:  Corrected my spelling of the author’s name.

[ Edited: 17 December 2013 11:39 AM by jtab4994 ]
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Posted: 17 December 2013 01:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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The pyjama spelling is unusual in North America, but far from unknown.

The hyphenation of thresh-hold is also different, but that’s also a title, and authors often play with titles. Without knowing more about the work I can’t say much more.

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Posted: 18 December 2013 06:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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The joke has a tailor telling a seamstress to purchase enough material for three shirts and then complaining that “she has put the whole nine yards into one shirt.”

I’m afraid you’ve botched the joke, not that it was much of a joke to begin with (American humor in the 19th century wasn’t quite ready for prime time, barring Mark Twain).  A comment in this thread has a clearer, if not exactly thigh-slapping, version:

The earliest known example of the phrase in print that I know of is in the US newspaper The Democratic Standard, 14th March 1855. The story it appeared in was a work of fiction rather than of news reporting and was reproduced in several US papers in 1855. It concerned a judge who arrived at an event without a spare shirt and decided to have one made for him. As a joke a friend ordered one with three times the required material, i.e. ‘nine yards of bleached domestic and three yards of linen’. The outcome was:

“He found himself shrouded in a shirt five yards long and four yards broad. What a silly, stupid woman! I told her to get enough to make three shirts; instead of making three, she has put the whole nine yards into one shirt!”

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Posted: 18 December 2013 06:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I’m afraid you’ve botched the joke

My take is that he mercifully shortened the joke rather than botched it.

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Posted: 19 December 2013 07:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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All I can say is that it was impossible for me to figure out what the joke might be from his version, and believe me, I tried.

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Posted: 19 December 2013 12:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Speaking of trying to figure things out, how is a shirt five yards long and four yards broad, nine yards?  Sounds more like 20 to me (5 x 4 = 20).  Or should I just let it go?

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Posted: 19 December 2013 08:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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how is a shirt five yards long and four yards broad, nine yards?

Because the “nine yards” of fabric refers to a length only and says nothing about the width of the bolt those nine yards are cut from.

Naturally, the width of the bolt is a factor in determining the cost per yard, but fabric is sold by the yard, regardless of the width and widths vary greatly. Nine yards of fabric from a bolt 108 inches wide is 27 square yards, but it would still be sold and described as “nine yards” of fabric.

My mother and sister were accomplished seamstresses and trips to the fabric store were a common part of my childhood. They would zip the fabric through a meter with a round dial and then it had a blade that came down and cut a slit and then the saleslady would rip the fabric across the rest of the bolt to “cut” it. I thought it was very cool… when I was something like seven years old.

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Posted: 19 December 2013 08:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Thanks Happydog, that makes a little more sense now and I’m glad I didn’t just let it go… I, too remember trips to the fabric store with my mother, grandmother, and sisters, but I was focused on finding the zaniest pattern I could find and convince them to make drapes or something out of it, but they never bought what I picked out.

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