To the editors:

In regard to the origin of the phrase, “the whole nine yards” (Straight Dope, April 10), one must keep in mind the essentially inevitable reduction of the subtle or urbane to the pedestrian and vulgar at the hands of the “teeming masses.” It seems perfectly logical to me that the true meaning of the phrase does indeed spring from football roots; however, rather than indicating fulfillment of a goal, pure irony is intended. So, in any instance of comment on shortfallen achievement when disdainful sarcasm is deemed appropriate, it could be said that “he went the whole nine yards.” For example, then, in answering the original reader’s query, Cecil Adams certainly went the whole nine yards.

Rick J. Andrews

S. May