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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Always fascinated with the orgin of words and phrases, I've recently come across the expression "86 it". There are some references to it on via Google (not many) and Wiki has no reference.

It is used in the place "call off", "abandon", "scrap", "drop", "ax", "scrub", "nix", "cancel", etcetera.

Any wordsmiths on this forum who might shed some light on the origin of this expression?
 

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I was always under the impression it originated with the TV comedy series "Get Smart" where Don Adams played Agent 86, who bumbled, fumbled or just plain botched every assignment he was given, thus to "86" it was to scrub or nix or whatever.
 

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My guess is that it is a play on the phrase "Deep 6 it". Which is in reference to dropping or tossing something into the water.
 

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Here's a bunch more theories:

I was told by a bartender friend that the derivation of "eight-six'd" comes from the Old West. Alcohol was once allowed to be 100 proof in strength, and when a regular was known to get disorderly, he was served with spirits of a slightly lower 86 proof. Hence he was "86'd."

New Yorkers know a different origin for this phrase. There's a bar/restaurant called Chumley's, at 86 Bedford Street in Greenwich Village. The bar has a formidable history as a literary hangout, but more importantly, as a speakeasy. The place is known for having no identifying markings on the door, and at least four or five hidden passageways that led to exits, some into adjacent apartment buildings. To "86-it" meant to simply vanish from a "dining" establishment. It's not hard to imagine how that evolved to mean "take a special off the menu", or any of the other interpretations it's given today.

You missed the ideogram here. I think the origin of the phrase comes from the way the numbers look. The 8 is kicking the 6 out of a bar.

I have heard that the origin of this term "eighty-sixed" was referring to the standard height of a door frame. In other words to be thrown out the door, you are 86'ed.

The term 86 or 86'd has its origins in NYC, where people committed suicide by jumping from the observation deck of The Empire State Building on the 86th floor before a safety fence was installed.

I heard this term came from a shaving powder (Old Eighty-six) from the wild west days. Just a pinch in the rambunctious cowboy's drink would have him heading for the outhouse and out of the saloon.

As an apprentice filmmaker I learned to use transparent light filters to change the quality or colour of the image that I was filming. These filters are categorized by number, the highest number being an 85 filter. The mythical 86 filter would be totally opaque, not letting through any light at all. Hence, I learned, the origin of the verb 86, to get rid of something in the way an 86 filter would completely delete any image in front of the camera from striking the film.

While working as a waitress, I was told that "86" referred to the number of ladles it took to empty an army pot of soup. After 86 servings, the pot was empty.

The United States military has what is called the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Article 86 of the UCMJ is Absence Without Leave. (commonly called AWOL).

I heard that this expression originated in New York City back in the days when there was a saloon on every street corner and elevated trains ran along the lengths of the major avenues. One of the lines terminated at 86th Street, at which point the conductors would eject the drunks who had fallen asleep on the train. Sometimes the drunks were belligerent. The conductors took to referring to them as "86's."

It is a holdover from journalism days when news was delivered over the teletype. To expedite the process, sometimes coded numbers were sent for common phrases and actions. For example, when a story was complete, the number "30" was sent. To this day, copy editors in newspapers still use the number 30 at the bottom center of the last page of a story. Also, (I've been told), when an item was sent in error or to be discarded, the number "86" was used.

I had thought that this term had been derived from military shorthand and referred to the phone dial (when it had letters on it). The T for Throw is on the 8 key and the O for Out is on the 6 key - hence something tossed is 86'd.

I was always under the impression that the expression was nautical. Something like "86 leagues or feet", with the idea that putting something that deep down in the ocean was discarding it.

So far my working hypothesis was, that maybe it started as a misunderstanding and derives from "deep six" as in buried six feet under ground, i.e. dead.

I believe this originated during the Korean war. "Eighty-six" refers to the jet fighter North American F-86 Saber. Whenever an F-86 shot down a airplane during a dogfight it had been "eighty-sixed".

I read several years ago that "86" refers to the standard depth of a grave in the U.S.: 7 feet, 2 inches; thus to "eighty-six" something is to "bury it".

Folk lore has it that local code #86 in New York makes it illegal for bar keepers to serve drunken patrons. The bartender says to such a patron, "You're eighty sixed", and thus we get this phrase.

I am a career restaurant worker and the story I heard about the origin of the term "86'd" started with the 86th precinct of the NY police dept. It seems that when officers in other precincts fell out of favor with their superiors the threat of being sent to the rough and overworked 86th was enough to make them tow the line. It was in conversation at the local restaurant among the officers that the wait staff began to pick it up and cycled to other restaurants and other industries.

In the electrical industry devices have numbers -- a 27 is an undervoltage relay, 43 is a selector switch, etc. -- and an 86 is a trip and lockout device. An 86 operation means the affected piece of equipment is "locked out."
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Ya, gee, thanks Sinc!

Sinc, you have made my day. I never knew there could be so many possible origins for such an obscure saying!

:clap:

Remind me never to ask anyone but you for wordsmithing work!
 
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