Posted By: Pete Caruso Eighty-sixed? Help, please. - 03/15/00 06:13 PM
I have for many years been trying to learn the origin of the phrase 86'd (eighty-sixed), used as a verb to describe being banned, usually from an establishment such as a place where food or drink is served. Help would be appreciated. Thanks.

Posted By: AnnaStrophic Re: Eighty-sixed? Help, please. - 03/15/00 06:36 PM
I was told by a NYC tour guide that Number 84 Bleecker Street (??? some street in the Village; I've forgotten now) was a rather (in)famous speakeasy during Prohibition. Whenever cops pounded on the front door, the owner would yell "Eighty-six it!", meaning for patrons to run out the back door down a secret corridor to adjoining number 86, which had both hiding places as well as a hidden back exit leading onto a small side alley. This could be apocryphal, of course. You know how tour guides are.

Posted By: Jeanne Re: Eighty-sixed? Help, please. - 03/15/00 07:23 PM
Actually, I think this comes from Radio. My father was a HAM radio operator. They had codes to represent concepts to abbreviate. This was especially valuable for Morse Code. 86 was the code for "Good-bye" and 10-4 was all right.

Posted By: jackiemw Re: Eighty-sixed? Help, please. - 03/15/00 10:52 PM
Dictionary of Contemporary Usage says 86 is a term in bartender's slang. To 86 a person is to indicate--usually to a bouncer--that a person will not be served anything more and may have to be evicted from the premises . . .

Posted By: AnnaStrophic Re: Eighty-sixed? Help, please. - 03/16/00 03:25 AM
Ham radio operators got 86 from a previous source. All the 10 codes existed previously, too. It'll be fun to see what other etymologies we get for this term.

Posted By: gfparsons Re: Eighty-sixed? Help, please. - 03/17/00 09:16 PM
Some thirty-odd years ago, I was told the term originated in the bayside bars of San Francisco. The booze was usually high proof, and when the patrons got too rowdy, they were "86'ed" by giving them only the lower proof stuff. Probably apocryphal, but a good story anyway.

Posted By: AnnaStrophic Re: Eighty-sixed? Help, please. - 03/18/00 12:21 AM
San Francisco and New York. Two apocryphal cities ;-)

Posted By: MarkHJay Re: Eighty-sixed? Help, please. - 03/23/00 09:51 PM
I do not know the origin of the word, but I had thought the meaning somewhat different. "86",
as I understand it, is a verb that means "discard". "86 the veal parmesan" means "throw the
veal parmesan out"; it's no good.

Posted By: AnnaStrophic Re: Eighty-sixed? Help, please. - 03/23/00 10:08 PM
Yep, by extension, to "86" something nowadays generally means to throw it out. But I think the origins are as mentioned in previous posts. Pity "23-Skiddoo" hasn't had as long as life as its "86" brother, mutations in meaning notwithstanding.

Posted By: Pete Caruso Re: Eighty-sixed? Help, please. - 03/26/00 06:49 PM
Thank you all for helping, though there seems to be no definitive answer, just several plausible ones. Perhaps more than one of the given provenances of the expression are each true in themselves and have leant strength to each other over time.

Does not much of what communicates act in an ad-hoc way, delivering its precise instantaneous meaning as much from present context as from dictionary definition?

Posted By: Apocryphon Re: Eighty-sixed? Help, please. - 04/05/00 12:44 AM
A new numerical coinage has arisen in the last few years (especially in Silicon Valley) to describe something similar. Instead of banned, it means, roughly, "unavailable," or, "out of the office."

The term?
404, as in, "I'm sorry, Mr. Bezos is four-oh-four at the moment."

The source? Well, it can be found at any one of a number of places, but one good place to look follows:

http://www.derrida.com/anu.html or,
http://www.derrida.com/wordsmith.html, or many -MANY- other places.



Posted By: AnnaStrophic Re: Eighty-sixed? Help, please. - 04/05/00 01:01 AM
Goodness, Jon... that's my area code. 'Cryptonomicon' has nuthin' on this. Thanks for the post and the sources.

Posted By: tsuwm Re: Eighty-sixed? Help, please. - 04/05/00 07:25 PM
Just to eighty-six this issue definitively, here is the entire citation from the online "Etymologies & Word Origins":


The term eighty-six is restaurant/bar slang for an item that is out of stock or a customer that is to be denied service. The origin is obscure. The earliest clear reference is to the February 1936 issue of American Speech; it was undoubtedly in existence before that. Lighter cites a 1926-35 comedy where a waiter gives his number as eighty-six.

The OED2 postulates that it may be rhyming slang for nix, and most authorities tend to go with this explanation although there is no strong evidence to support it. It is plausible as restaurant crews frequently employ codes such as this.

American Heritage suggests that it may derive from Chumley's Bar in Greenwich Village, which was located at 86 Bedford Street. This is probably coincidence and the early citations
of eighty-six tend to disprove it as Chumley's did not exist until the late-1920s. Other explanations include:

A standard crew of eighty-five on British merchant ships (with the eighty-sixth sailor being left on shore)
Eighty-five tables at New York's Twenty-One club.
The number of a law forbidding service of alcohol to intoxicated customers.

There is no evidence to support any of these latter contentions.

Its usage as a verb meaning to get rid of, dates only to 1955, according to Lighter.

Posted By: cgblack Re: Eighty-sixed? Help, please. - 05/01/00 04:38 PM
Does the word deep-six v: to toss out; get rid off, relate to eighty-six in any way?

Posted By: tsuwm Re: Eighty-sixed? Help, please. - 05/01/00 04:53 PM
not likely; deep-six comes from the standard for burial at sea: a depth of six fathoms.

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