Volume 91, Issue 89

Wednesday, March 18, 1998

Leave it to Weaver


Critics doubt Cliff's sources for expression

Cliff's mailbag is a weekly column which attempts to answer the myriad of questions inquiring Western students are going out of their minds trying to figure out. From Western questions, to science questions, to inane trivial nonsense – intrepid Cliff will ferret out the answer...or DIE TRYING!!! Send questions to UCC, Rm. 263 c/o Cliff or email gaznews@julian.uwo.ca

Whoa boy. Most days, it's an absolute pleasure working for Cliff – not today. Cliff is madder than a monkey in water and pre-millennium tension is not the cause! It turns out that quite a few readers have doubted Cliff's answer to the 'whole nine yards' question. Droves of readers have been writing in with their own answers to the question.

Astute reader Dallas Gow wrote Cliff, suggesting Cliff "made a left at the Pamela Anderson sex tape when he should have made a right." After adding one of those annoying little smiley face icons :), he gave Cliff his own version of the truth. Here's what he said:

"The whole nine yards came from WWII fighter pilots in the South Pacific. When arming their airplanes on the ground, the .50 caliber machine gun ammo belts measured exactly 27 feet, before being loaded into the fuselage. If the pilots fired all their ammo at a target, it got 'the whole nine yards.'"

Most of the readers who took offence at Cliff's answer felt this was the correct response. However, one fella who calls himself Jack Tar but whose actual name is Jeff Gardiner, gave a decidedly different account of the origin of this damn expression. He wrote the following:

"When Nelson was a killik (lower decker for you land lubbers), if the lads got themselves into trouble and got caught, they'd have to face the Chief Boatswain's mate, now the Coxswain. If the crime wasn't that severe, they would get lashes with a whip rather than keel hauling.

Now the real irony was that the poor sod that was getting the lashings was also the one who had to construct the whip. This poor soul was issued nine yards of hemp (the non-smoking kind) to make his cat-o'-nine-tails. The cat-o'-nine-tails had to be exactly one yard long when constructed and had to consist of the proper splices, whippings and knots."

So, there you go. Three possible answers including mine. Take your pick.

To Contact The News Department: gaznews@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998