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I've been browsing through older lyrics of Judas Priest songs, namely Rocka Rolla, which has the following lines in a verse:

Barroom fighter
Ten pint a nighter
Definite ninety-nine
Diamond cluster
Knuckle duster
Feline on the borderline

Context: the song is basically about a woman with "tough" image, i.e. frequently abusing alcohol and drugs, breaking the law, which probably would be a good pair for some kind of same thug-like "tough" guy.

Timeline and origin: this song was written and published around 1974 in UK.

I understand almost everything in this verse, except for "definite ninety-nine". I've done some homework, crawling around for the ideas, but being no native UK English speaker, I'm kind of at loss for what's the original meaning of this phrase. My guesses:

  • "99" being "99 miles per hour", i.e. "going very fast"
  • "99er" as in "a person who exhausted all of their 99 weeks of unemployment benefits", but this is most likely incorrect, as this is US term and was introduced relatively recently, i.e. it didn't exist in 1974
  • "99" in some sexual context?
  • "99" as in slang for cocaine
  • "99" as in hot body temperature in Fahrenheit, i.e. meaning just "hot"
  • I'm not going to post this as an answer because I have no personal insight or experience, so these interpretations were just a result of a quick google, but Cassell's Dictionary of Slang has "ninety-nine n. [1940s-70s] (Aus./US gay) anal intercourse [a play on the usu SIXTY-NINE n (1)]" & a site on Br slang has "The 99 ice cream was introduced to Britain in the 1930s. The British ice cream industry was run by Italians who chose the name for an Italian legend in which a King had the very finest group of soldiers for his bodyguards - 99 of them. This is why the number 99 represents quality." – Dan Bron Aug 5 '14 at 20:30
  • OED has a note about the 99 ice-cream: "The reason for the name is unknown. The original ice cream contained Cadbury's ‘99’ Flake (produced specially for the ice-cream trade) but the application to the chocolate may not precede its application to the ice cream. The suggestion that something really special or first class was known as ‘99’ in allusion to an elite guard of ninety-nine soldiers in the service of the King of Italy appears to be without foundation." – Andrew Leach Aug 5 '14 at 20:44
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    My (admittedly recently-acquired) understanding of "99" as in "99 ice cream" is not sweet but high-quality, which accords well with the following line: diamond cluster. [That said, I'm personally rooting for the interpretation "dude, she's definitely down for butt stuff".] – Dan Bron Aug 5 '14 at 20:51
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    The '99' in the ice cream is the flake. Cadbury's make a special short version of the flake bar for that market, which they call a '99 flake'. Here's a BBC page speculating on why it's called that news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/5223328.stm – Rupe Aug 5 '14 at 21:19
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    Could it refer to the character "99" in the TV show "Get Smart"? Did that get exported to England? She was a female secret agent, essentially a spoof of Emma Peel from "The Avengers". This fits the idea of a tough woman. – Barmar Aug 7 '14 at 6:03
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It could be @Barmar was right by asserting that the woman in the Judas Priest song is a tribute to the female spy known as Agent 99, in the American T.V. comedy show Get Smart. The show ran from September 18, 1965 to May 15, 1970 and Judas Priest's debut album was released in 1974, so the timeline fits. Unlike another user, Greycat, I could not find any documented proof as to when the series was aired in the UK, but transatlantic flights were fairly common during the 60s and 70s and who's to say that the group were not fans of the cult show?

I realize it's a long shot but it is a plausible shot, and one which might explain the meaning of Definite ninety-nine.

Wikipedia informs:

Agent 99 (Barbara Feldon) is the tall, beautiful female agent whose appearance is useful in undercover operations. Generally, Agent 99 is more competent than Smart, but Smart saves her life in several episodes.

One of the show's many catchphrases was

Good thinking, 99! (usually commented by Smart) Wikiquote

Otherwise on a more practical note, I'm inclined to think the phrase definite ninety-nine is Judas Priest's own unique way of saying that the woman is definitely a 9. Ninety-nine makes her close to being perfection, and indeed the band heap their praises on her

Man eatin' momma, steam driven hammer
Sorts the men out from the boys
Takes no messin', all in wrestlin'
[...]
She's a classy, flashy, lassy
Imitation sapphire shine
Two faced liar, full of fire
[....]
Barroom fighter
Ten pint a nighter
Definite ninety-nine
[...]

protected by choster Aug 28 '14 at 4:49

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