ABA Journal


Law Schools

Yale Law Librarian Reopens Debate on the Origins of ‘The Whole Nine Yards’

Jan 3, 2013, 12:30 pm CST


Wow. Looks like the Yaleys are onto unusually productive research these days.

By B. McLeod on 2013 01 03, 1:07 pm CST

What is a librarian? Are they the people who organize articles on google?

By tim17 on 2013 01 03, 3:18 pm CST

A "librarian" is the person who sends you the article when you have to pay for it online (or when you can't find it (Scandanavian Journal Obscura), or when it needs to be translated, or ...).

By mike on 2013 01 03, 4:09 pm CST

When I worked in the law department of the New York Central Railroad, years ago, I was told that the expression derives from the fact that steel rails, as they rolled out of steel mills, were 9 yards long. They still are, as I am told. Just another opinion, I guess.


By EDWARD M. MILLER on 2013 01 04, 6:00 pm CST

I think it has to do with quilting. To have enough fabric to make a quilt, front and back, one must buy the whole nine yards

By janice on 2013 01 04, 6:50 pm CST

I have always believed the phrase refers to the Celtic kilt and the fact that it consisted of 9 yards of material. There was a time in British history after the fall of the Scottish kings when the kilt and any mention of it was outlawed. This might explain why there is no mention of the phase in British writings.

By Barbara on 2013 01 04, 7:11 pm CST

Peter King, writing about pro football for Sports Illustrated, called this one of his "tweets of the week."

"Brings new meaning to the term 'the whole nine yards.' "

-- @LATimesfarmer, football writer Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times, just after Adrian Peterson finished nine yards shy of breaking Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record.

By Dave on 2013 01 04, 7:28 pm CST

For the kilters , and others, a strong argument is made that this phrase does not appear anywhere in print prior to the late 1950's. Phrasefinder notes that the earliest printed usage came in two articles written in the Kentucky Happy Hunting Ground ( a periodical published by the same state's Dept of Fish and Wildlife) by Ron Rhody. A call to Arkansas' Bill Clinton has not been returned.

By Grayghost on 2013 01 04, 7:43 pm CST

A full rigged ship has 9 yards. A brig has six yards. A brig with all sails set is carrying "the full six yards." A sailing ship with all sail set is carrying "the full nine yards." +1 for the maritime attribution for this saying.

By Dnauhei on 2013 01 04, 11:41 pm CST

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