[JN] Fwd: "the hole nnine yards... a recent history.....

Spence Barton ence-ack at riousa.com
Thu Feb 4 20:26:24 CST 2021


I believe I am at fault for the 50 Cal ammo/9 yards idea. 
Back in the early'80's before I learned to fly I read a book 
by chuck Yeager (ghost written and quite poorly) from the 
'50s or so. Long out of print, the library where I found it 
has long since sold it off or thrown in out as worthless.

It was full of gutsy red-neck wisdom as only the dubious 
chuck Yeager could spin it. Good aviator but a spectacular 
bullshit container. In it, Yeager talked about the fact that 
the P-51 he flew in WWII had 27 feet of belted 50 cal. ammo. 
He never used the phrase "whole nine yards" in the book.I 
had always wondered about "the whole nine yards" phrase, it 
had mystified me all my life and I thought I had found the 
source. It's always been mystifying to me because NONE of 
the people I ever knew who use the phrase ever knew where it 
came from and those who used it, used it all the time. It's 
like "balls to the wall". At least we know where that came 
from but 99.999% of those who use the phrase have no idea 
what it means.

Fast forward to somewhere between 1990 and 2,000 AD and I 
was flying with a captain who often used the phrase and I 
told him where I thought it might have come from. The next 
thing I know I see a reference on the internet and found 
that the very same captain I had told my idea to was busy 
making a knnow-it-all ass of himself broadcasting all over 
the interwebs that the phrase was related to ammo belts. 
Typical of this guy he got it all wrong and was blabing 
about B-24 bombers having 9 yards of ammo (which is 
ridiculous) as if it was a fact and he was the smartest guy 
in the world and the only who knew the whole story. After 
all an Airline Captain couldn't be wrong.

Thankfully, he never mentioned me as the source of the idea 
so my involvement shall remain unknown.  Next thing I know, 
it's being repeated as gospel all over the internet. Later, 
it's being debunked here and there but as with a lot of 
interweb "knowledge" that is incorrect, it'll never get 
wiped out. I had to laff and laff when I saw people arguing 
about it and one side saying it couldn't be true because 
B-24s had a lot more ammo. This from people who couldn't 
spell B-24 nor ever met anyone who could. Mistake piled on 
mistake. Especially among those who can be described as 
"often wrong but never in  doubt".

I have never found the book again or even found a reference 
to it. So I can't even document the source of my connecting 
the phrase to P-51 ammo. I will say, in all the back and 
forth, strutting and posing about this phrase I have yet to 
hear anything that makes as much sense as my incorrect 
proposed explanation. Like a lot of compelling ideas, it's 
just wrong.

So that's my only contribution to worlds knowledge - a false 
connection between an old, old out of print Chuck Yeager 
book and a phrase whose source we will certainly never 
figure out. I certainly never would have presented to the 
world as fact. But it was fun to see how quickly the idea 
became internet "fact".

spence

On 2/4/2021 2:58 PM, Christian Rintelen via Sound wrote:
> hey, that is a very nice explanation for the etymology of 
> «the whole nine yards».
> 
> and you’re not the only one who thinks so, asthis nice 
> discussion 
> <https://www.theguardian.com/notesandqueries/query/0,,-16675,00.html> in 
> the guardian proves.
> 
> however, according to wikipedia 
> <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_whole_nine_yards>,  the 
> earliest published non-idiomatic use of the phrase dates 
> back to a 1855 indiana newspaper article. the earliest 
> idiomatic use is documented in a 1907, again in indiana. 
> these indiana instances are the ugly flies in the ointment 
> as there were no fighters or bombers equipped with 50 
> caliber machine guns neither in 1907 nor in 1855…
> 
> to quote wikipedia again:  Yale University librarian Fred R. 
> Shapiro calls the whole nine yards "the most prominent 
> etymological riddle of our time". at least that!
> 
> sorry to rain on your parade  🤓
> 
> ©
> _ _ _
> aka christian rintelen
> 
>> Am 04.02.2021 um 23:24 schrieb Philip Yates via Sound 
>> <sound at soundlist.org <mailto:sound at soundlist.org>>:
>>
>> 1/2" = 12.7 mm, you know, the calibre of the Browning 
>> machine guns used in so many of the WWII fighters and 
>> bombers? :-)  The ammo boxes held 9 yards of ammunition, 
>> hence, giving someone or something "the whole nine yards."
>>
>> Phil
>>
>> On Thu, Feb 4, 2021 at 3:52 PM bear via Sound 
>> <sound at soundlist.org <mailto:sound at soundlist.org>> wrote:
>> Yeah they make 'em so they can wind down to SMT size!!
>>
>> I've got one that will do down to ~1/2" , which is some 
>> large fraction of what
>> you call a Centimeter?
>>
>>                      _-_-bear
>>
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