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The whole nine yards...

Posted by Victoria S Dennis on December 19, 2010 at 22:05

In Reply to: The whole nine yards... posted by Gary Martin on December 19, 2010 at 10:56:

: : 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?

: Possible and, as explanations of the WNY go, one of the saner guesses. Highly unlikely though; the phrase is firmly established as having a 20th century origin, long after the cat went out of use.

I don't think it is remotely possible, if only for the simple reason that the tails of the cat o' nine tails weren't anywhere near a yard long! See here:

This is evidently a classic creation of CANOE, the Campaign to Ascribe Nautical Origins to Everything. (VSD)