Posted by ESC on May 27, 2007
Got a new book. No definitive origin. But new information. I think. This reference lists several theories already covered and the 1855 Pennsylvania newspaper.
"The year before this vignette appeared, an essayist named 'Fanny Fern' (Sara Payson Willis) referred to 'nine yards of calico for a dress.' In nineteenth-century America 'nine yards of calico' became so synonymous with women in general that a traditional square dance tune is called 'Swing Nine Yards of Calico.' Although this suggests a fabric-based root of 'the whole nine yards,' that catchphrase only became common after World War II." From "The Quote Verifier: Who Said What, Where, and When" by Ralph Keyes, (St. Martin's Griffin, New York, 2006). Page 247.
Previously, from another newly acquired book:
"I'll weave nine yards of other cloth
For John to have and keep,
He'll need it where he's going to lie,
To warm him in his sleep. "
"Nine Yards of Other Cloth" by Manly Wade Wellman, a poem in "The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction," November 1958. ".references the traditional length of a burial shroud in Appalachian burial custom." From "Word Myths: Debunking Linguistic Urban Legends" by David Wilton (Oxford University Press, 2004). Page 35.