Posted by Paul on December 19, 2010 at 10:53
When I took sailing lessons I was told by an "old salt" that the phrase originated from the use of the cat-o-nine-tails as punishment on ships. It had nine cords each about a yard in length. If the person administering the punishment was a particular friend of the person being punished he might tend to lash the persons back rather softly. The officer over seeing the punishment would admonish him... "Give him the full nine yards!" Given that so many phrases find there origin in nautical lingo and that these were generally passed down as oral rather than written tradition... might it be possible?