yard on it

Discuss word origins and meanings.
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yard on it

Post by Great Dane » Tue Oct 03, 2006 1:25 am

Hello all. I'm born and bred Mainer so this phrase is known to me. It means to pull really hard on something. My wife (a flatlander)heard the phrase and asked the origin. My best guess was that it was nautical and that when you "yarded on it", you pulled on a halyard with all of your reach. Sounded plausible enough but it piqued my curiousity. Any input would be appreciated.
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yard on it

Post by gdwdwrkr » Tue Oct 03, 2006 9:29 am

Welcome Great Dane
Bred and born up north in Maine
Whose wife wonders what it is to yard on it
Who knows it is to pull real hard on it
Piqued and guesses it is nautical
Climb aboard HMS Etymautical

(watch the superlatives : any!)
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yard on it

Post by Great Dane » Tue Oct 03, 2006 9:41 am

Very Nice! And so early in the day!
Reminds me of a registration tag I saw on a car once - "POETREE" - I figured it was a poetic license..
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yard on it

Post by gdwdwrkr » Tue Oct 03, 2006 10:28 am

wooden, though, don't you think?
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Post by dalehileman » Tue Oct 03, 2006 2:28 pm

Since I don't find this sense in Cassell's can I assume either it's very obscure or very new
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yard on it

Post by gdwdwrkr » Tue Oct 03, 2006 4:04 pm

Could it be "down to brass tacks"-related?
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Post by Bobinwales » Tue Oct 03, 2006 4:12 pm

We would yank on on a rope, could it be that it would just not be sensible to have a Yankee yanking?
.
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Signature: All those years gone to waist!
Bob in Wales

yard on it

Post by gdwdwrkr » Tue Oct 03, 2006 6:32 pm

That's correct....the rope would be the yankee; the Yankee the yanker.
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Post by Great Dane » Tue Oct 03, 2006 8:22 pm

dalehileman: "can I assume either it's very obscure or very new"
are you asking about "yard on it" or gdwdwrkr's puns? As far as my inquiry, it's not new that I know of. I've been around 50+ years and heard it first many of them ago.
It may be strictly a New England phrase, we've got a few of them, I'm told.
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Post by dalehileman » Tue Oct 03, 2006 9:28 pm

Dane: Thank you for that. Googling the expr accordingly I was surprised to find a number of examples of "yard" meaning to pull, as in

Cinch Belay Device You'll be inclined to yard on the lever hard the first few times you use it.
goaao.com/cinch_belay_device.htm
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Post by Ken Greenwald » Wed Oct 04, 2006 5:34 am

Dana, YARD ON IT is a puzzling phrase. I did a pretty good search and didn’t find it in any historical newspapers, magazines, journals, etc. But I did find it in use starting in the 1990s in books and on the web (see quotes below), and clearly with the meaning you suggest, ‘pull really hard.’ The term seems to be popular in various sports circles, especially mountain and rock climbing. And the rope connection would fit in pretty well with being passed to us from sailing.

The only thing that I could find in the way of a verb usage in a slang dictionary was “To inclose (cattle, etc.) in a yard. Also with up” from the Oxford English Dictinoary (OED) and “To ‘corral’ or ‘round up,’ to get hold of: Canada: since late 1950s” from Eric Partridge’s A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English. Partridge’s ‘get hold of ’ is close, and Canada is close to Maine, but 'get hold of' isn't quite 'pull really hard' and you make it clear, as do the quotes I found that it does mean exactly that, and the nautical ‘pulling really hard on a halyard' explanation does sounds reasonable.

I was pretty much at a dead end on this but it did sound, as you suggested, like it might be a New England regional term. I would have checked my Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE), which specializes in this sort of thing, except that volume IV only goes as far as 'Sk' and volume V, which will contain ‘Y,’ is still on the drawing boards. I contacted DARE editor Joan Houston Hall (University of Wisconsin, Madison) this morning to ask her if she had anything in her files on this one and she replied as follows:
<“The only remotely similar thing I found in a quick check is this: 1949 in 1965 DARE File Ann Arbor MI, "If anyone takes my drink, I'll yard him with a necktie." Informant. . . did not remember where he had picked up the expression, but [it] means vaguely 'to hang.' Probably from expression 'to hang from the yard arm.'“>
So, the source of your expression remains a mystery except for the outside possibility that it evolved from the 1950s Canadian ‘to get hold of’’ mentioned above.
<1997 “ . . . on the C-53 you must pump a large, beefy three-foot-long arm 30 or 40 times to set or retract the landing gear. You have to YARD ON IT pretty hard, too, for it isn't as easy as jacking up a car.”—‘ Dakota Squadron ...Travelogue Day -1,’ http://aztec.asu.edu/dakota/day1.html, 22 June>

<1998 “If the nut is buried deep in a crack, you may have to really YARD ON IT. Be warned
that this can bend any cable which, done repeatedly, can not only ruin the nut’s symmetry but weaken the cable . . .”—‘How to Rock Climb’ by John Long, page 88>

<2000 “It's pretty well attached and stretches some so as not to break if you catch it on something in a minor way but will actually come undone if you really YARD ON IT.”—‘Best Location on Octopus’ [[scuba diving]], http://groups.google.com/group/rec.scuba> 28 February>

<2004 “I think I may have cracked the window on a door to Covell Hall. It gets stuck and the only way to get it open is to YARD ON IT, hard. So I did and then I looked up and there was spiderweb-like cracks. But I don't know if they were there before."—http://www.ahqt.com/by/2004_12_05_archive.html >

<2005 “You already know that the stuck rope will sustain your body weight should you attempt to prusik up it or YARD ON IT when you need to . . .”—‘The Mountaineering Handbook’ by Craig Connally, page 165>

<2005 “This one hold just kept crumbling when you grab it, and it feels like it moves when you YARD ON IT . .. but I think it'll hold, for now.”— http://www.tracstarr.com, 17 August> [[rock climbing]]

<2006 “The boot flexes quite a bit when we YARD ON IT, but it flexes the same for each test so it gets cancelled out of the results.”—“Flex Testing a Backcountry Skiing Binding,” http://www.wildsnow.com/?p=380, 22 August>
Ken G – October 3, 2006
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Post by Great Dane » Fri Oct 06, 2006 9:35 pm

Thanks, all, for your replies. I'll show this to my wife and let her know that I must be smarter than she thinks I am!
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