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Today I came across an idiom I have never before seen.

Joe Garagiola, his lifelong friend from the old neighborhood in St. Louis, a fellow catcher, and great raconteur, got a lot of mileage telling Yogi stories on the lecture circuit. He often reworded Yogi-isms to make them funnier, and some he made up out of whole cloth.

I understood from the context that he invented 'sayings' and attributed them to Berra. I researched this, and frankly, it still makes no sense to me. I also saw it worded as cut from the whole cloth. I can't get to how it's a falsification.

I know that to fabricate means to make up (as in lie); are the two related, or is this pure coincidence?

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marked as duplicate by rajah9, jwpat7, choster, FumbleFingers, Benyamin Hamidekhoo Dec 12 '13 at 6:23

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

This is part of the Writing Is Weaving metaphor theme. Weaving was invented before writing, technologically; in fact 'weaving' seems to have been the original meaning of the PIE root that technology comes from. Weaving has been a popular metaphor for writing and narrative of all kinds ever since. Note particularly the fact that many of the metaphor instantiations have to do with lying; this comes from the fact that all stories are necessarily lies. – John Lawler Dec 11 '13 at 19:03
@JohnLawler: How do you define "stories"? If they are "Once upon a time there was a leprechaun name O'Fiddle who . . .," then yeah, all stories [of this type] are lies. The same goes for "tall tales." A story can also contain truth, can it not? Every story, of course, leaves out some things and adds other things, which by doing so does not necessarily constitute lies or lying. Every story which describes some snapshot of reality is part selection, part reflection, part deflection, and part distortion. That's the nature of stories and storytelling, and a whole lot more! – rhetorician Dec 11 '13 at 21:12
Any narrative is one version of events. All language is symbolic, so there can be no true representation in language. – John Lawler Dec 11 '13 at 22:08
@Susan: As GEdgar says on the original question (closed General Reference): A fabrication ... wait, is "fabric" in "fabrication" the same word as used for cloth? I think what John's telling us is it's definitely the same word - in a whimsical Victorian metaphoric usage that survives even among speakers who don't realise why they're saying it. – FumbleFingers Dec 12 '13 at 2:10
Yeah, that's about right. – John Lawler Dec 12 '13 at 3:44
up vote 3 down vote accepted

I've never encountered the idiom before, but did some quick research. From what I can see, yes, the idiom is related to fabricating something. I can't find an origin, but according to Merriam-Webster, the first known usage was in 1840. It's defined as

Whole Cloth

pure fabrication —usually used in the phrase out of whole cloth

Wiktionary also has an article on it:


whole cloth (uncountable)

  1. A newly made textile which has not yet been cut.
  2. (figuratively, used attributively or preceded by various prepositions) The fictitious material from which complete fabrications, lies with no basis in truth, are made.
  3. Something made completely new, with no history, and not based on anything else. The plans for the widget were drawn from whole cloth
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