The Whole Six Yards

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Have you always wondered where the phrase “the whole nine yards” comes from? You’re not alone. “For decades,” says Jennifer Schuessler of the New York Times, “the answer to that question has been the Bigfoot of word origins.”

And that’s true. Back before I knew this was a controversy, I simply assumed the phrase derived from the game of football. Why? Because I had always heard it used a bit sarcastically, suggesting that if you gave something “the whole nine yards,” you weren’t really putting in enough effort to get the job done. This naturally suggested a football origin.

That’s wrong, it turns out, but no one really knows the actual origin of the phrase. Until now! Recent research suggests that the meaning of “nine yards” is….nothing. It’s just “numerical phrase inflation.” Click the link for the whole deflating story.

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FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2021 demands.

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