Polite clapping. Four more runs for Sussex in a lively one-day match against Durham. It’s a real shame that the wind is freezing in the Sussex County Cricket ground, otherwise this would be a perfect way to end a Wednesday.
Alan: "Check out the Scots in their kilts."
Céline: "Oooh they look fantastic."
Alan: "Do you know it takes nine yards of material to make a proper kilt?"
Céline (who still doesn’t understand imperial measurements but guesses, from her friend’s awed tone of voice, that it must be a lot of material): "Goodness really?"
Alan: "Yes, that’s the origin of the expression ‘to go the whole nine yards’. If you don’t, it’s not a proper kilt. So to go the whole nine yards means that you’re doing things properly, it’s perfect, complete."
I thought I’d check it, not because I don’t trust my friend, but because I know from experience that the origin of this type of expression is often much debated. I wasn’t disappointed; after several searches, it appears that no one knows for sure where it comes from. Wordorigins gives several possibilities, including the amount of dirt in a large burial plot, nine yards as the length of a machine-gun ammunition belt, and nine yards as the amount of cement held in a typical cement-mixer. Random House gives a more comprehensive study of where it might have come from and doesn’t come to any conclusion either. So there. It’s a mystery. I don’t think I’ll tell Alan, who loves everything Scottish and could, after all, be right.