Posted by R. Berg on November 09, 2001
In Reply to: Gary? posted by Gary Martin on November 07, 2001
: : : : I, too, had heard that this saying derived from the amount of material in a truck -- but, I'd heard dump truck rather than cement truck. No matter. The reason I'm writing is that I can tell you the phrase certainly pre-dates the 1970's. I remember it vividly from when I was a kid back in the 1950's and I wouldn't be surprised if it didn't come into usage before that.
: : : Well, that gives you an excellent chance to win the PFWNYGP,
the Phrase Finders Whole Nine Yards Grand Prize, which keeps accumulating
value. It's a nifty certificate, and a Big Cash Prize now worth
: : : Since WNY was "in common use" before (1960, WWII, WWI, 1846 in Scotland, whatever) it SURELY appeared in print somewhere. Find it. A genuine text reference will do the trick. (No "I heard it from my uncle" or "I remember it clearly" hearsay evidence ... text only.) Somewhere there's a newspaper story about the cloth for the Scottish kilt that got dipped into the cement mixer to try to fish out the RAF machinegun belt.... Or, perhaps, an account of the sinkhole disaster in Mongolia showing what fell in the hole: nine yurts.
: : By the way, what is the oldest text reference found to date?
: Nice to see our old friend. Not been around much recently.
: The earliest printed reference I've found is in a magazine called Word Watching, April 1970.
Evan Morris, at the Word Detective website, has explained the origin. He said "It's simple. There are exactly nine yards in a gry."