Nine yards, cont.

No clear consensus has emerged in the debate over the origin of the phrase "the whole nine yards." The cement truck explanation is in a tie with the ammo belt explanation in responses from readers, several of whom have researched the matter.

I often wonder why some of these phrases stick and develop a meaning which is generally agreed upon. We all know how to use the phrase "the whole nine yards," but we can't agree on what it originally meant.

I think it has something to do with the sound of the phrase, the way it rolls off the tongue. Why are so many people with the name Bill given the nickname "Wild Bill?" Did it start with Wild Bill Hickock? Perhaps. But I think it continues because it is just plain fun to say.

Some of my favorite sources of humor are mangled cliches and mixed metaphors which preserve the original poetry of the phrase while changing the meaning completely.

For example, I was once bowling with some friends, including one we'll call Bonzo. Bonzo wasn't having a good game. As he rolled another gutter ball, somebody from back at the bar, who was a bit lit up, blurted out, "Bonzo, you just never seems to amaze me."

I don't know if it was an intentional slip, but the result was brilliant.

When I sold pianos, we had an old, gruff piano mover named Ed. He was on the verge of retirement, and he did what he wanted--which usually included a stop at the bar on the way to and from a piano delivery.

Well, one day I was lamenting a large tear in a piano slip cover. Ed was standing nearby and finally barked, "Just take it to a teamster!" He meant "seamstress," but it came out teamster, and I laughed until I dropped at the thought of Jimmy Hoffa with needle and thread.