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.