Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Whole Nine Yards and Kilts

 

It’s funny where looking up things takes you, in the present case, kilts.  Not that I was looking up kilts but that I was led there.

Let me explain.

I recently heard the expression “the whole nine yards” again.  Most will be aware that it means completely, the whole thing.  Some years ago I had heard that the expression originated from the length of machine gun ammunition belts in World War 2 fighter planes.  It was suggested that the length of the belts was nine yards (about 3 metres) and that to empty one’s ammunition belt at a target was to “go the whole nine yards”.   

Looking into it further today, I found the following:
·        There are numerous explanations for how the phrase developed, some explanations referring to tests (walking 9 yards over coals), to clothing (using 9 yards of material in suits and kilts) and to construction (the amount of concrete carried by concrete trucks).
·         Nonetheless, experts are unable to explain how the phrase originated.
·         The earliest recorded use of the phrase is from 1962, suggesting that most of the explanations are incorrect.
·         It is likely that the phrase developed in the US in the 1960’s.
There is a more detailed examination at:
http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/the-whole-nine-yards.html

Which raises kilts.

Snopes.com, the authoritative site on urban myths, origins and electronic spam, suggests that “the best candidate for the origin of the expression might lie with a risque story of uncertain age” concerning a young Scot and his kilt.  The item appears at:
http://www.snopes.com/language/phrases/nineyards.asp

Rather than quote the story, I will set out the lyrics of a song which tell the same tale.  It is called Angus and his Kilt:

Well, Angus was a happy lad, for soon he would be wed.
He'd found a brisk and bonnie lass to take him to his bed.
And happier still his mother was that he had found a wife,
For, truth be told, she'd often feared she'd be stuck with him for life.

Cho: It's a fine thing, a bonnie thing, the grandest ever seen.
(Repeat last line of verse)

In honor of the grand affair that wedding day would be,
She set about to weave a kilt, the finest ever seen.
The night before the wedding, when the kilt was finally done,
She called young Angus over and she tried it on her son.

She wound the kilt about him and she wound, and wound, and wound,
And when she finished winding, it was still eight yards too long.
"Never fear, my bonnie boy. We'll simply cut it off,
And to your blushin' bride we'll give the extra length of cloth."

Now Angus was so pleased, y'know, his heart had swelled with pride.
He felt that he must rush right out and show it to his bride.
'Twas raining, so he grabbed a cloak to shield him on the moor,
But in his haste to be away his kilt slammed in the door.

Well, Angus was in such a rush to show off for his bride,
He never really noticed that he had left his kilt behind.
He knocked upon her door and cried, "Oh, let me in, I pray!
I've something that you've got to see before our wedding day."

Now, Bridget let him in, y'know, but said, "Ye cannot stay.
For I've got to have my beauty sleep before our wedding day."
"I'll only be a moment, love, but it's so grand, my dear,
Ye've really got to see what I'm a-hiding under here."

Now, when the cloak was thrown aside and Angus stood quite bare,
We must admit she was impressed and tried hard not to stare.
"Oh, love, I'll ne'er see finer, though far and far I roam!"
"Well, lass," he cried, "that's nothing! I've got eight more yards at home!"

2 comments:

  1. It seems that are a lot of explanation about the whole nine yards expression and the fact about kilts. I think that wearing kilts is part of a great tradition. I think that it looks great to see men wearing them.

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  2. Despite enthusiasm at snopes.com for a kilt-based explanation for the origin of "the whole nine yards," there is no evidence that the expression came about as a reference to kilts and certainly no evidence for it's being linked to a risque joke about kilt-wearing Scotsmen.

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