The term 86 comes from the movie business in Hollywood. When shooting on colour film, a camera needs an 85 filter (amber in colour) to balance the daylight. When moving indoors under tungsten light the filter is removed or replaced with a clear filter and this was referred to as the 86 filter. Therefore 86 came to mean "nothing" or to "get rid of".
There are several possible origins of the term 86. In 1928, all electrical components of the power system, then being installed across America, were given standardized numbers to show their functional use on all electrical power system circuit diagrams. In the design of electrical power systems, the ANSI Standard Device Numbers (ANSI/IEEE Standard C37.2) denote what features a protective device supports (such as a relay or circuit breaker). These types of devices protect electrical systems and components from damage when an unwanted event occurs, such as an electrical fault. Device numbers are used to identify the functions of devices shown on a schematic diagram of a substation. Function descriptions are given in the standard. ANSI/IEEE C37.2-2008 is one of a continuing series of revisions of the standard, which originated in 1928. An 86 device is a LOCKOUT breaker. Linemen and other power system technicians familiar with the term were working their way across America as the country was electrified. The term "being 86'd" could have originated from their tendency to be 86ed (thrown out or locked out) of bars or other establishments.
Another possible source of origin is from the U.S. Navy's Allowance Type (AT) coding system used for logistic purposes. The allowance type code is a single digit numeric that identifies the reason material is being carried in stock. Throughout the life-cycle of a warship, many pieces of equipment will be upgraded or replaced, requiring the allowance of onboard spare parts associated to the obsolete equipment to be disposed of. The AT code assigned to parts designated for disposition is AT-6. Following World War II, there were a great number of warships being decommissioned, sold, scrapped, or deactivated and placed in reserve (commonly referred to as "mothballed"). During this process, labor workers would bring spare parts up from the storerooms and the lead supply clerk would inform them what the disposition of their parts were by part number. Anything referred to as AT-6 (or by similar phonetic, eighty-six) was to be disposed of in the dumpster. This is where the term became synonymous with throwing something away. Author Jeff Klein points to the bar Chumley's at 86 Bedford Street in the West Village of Lower Manhattan, as a source. The 2006 book The History and Stories of the Best Bars of New York by Jef Klein tells the story that, when the police would very kindly call ahead before a [ prohibition-era] raid, they'd tell the bartender to '86' his customers, meaning they should scram out the 86 Bedford door, while the police would come to the Pamela Court entrance. The song "Boogie Woogie Blue Plate" by Louis Jordan hit number one in 1947 on the US R&B Billboard charts. He sings about a waitress, "You can hear her putting in orders like this, ... 86 on the cherry pies..", restaurant lingo for being out of an item.
The Merriam Webster dictionary suggests the term may be associated with the word "nix" ("no" or a more general prohibition). The term 86'd may also be associated with the Empire State Building. The first or lower elevators only went as far as the observation promenade on the 86th floor, where every one had to get out and, if they wanted to go to the upper floors, use another elevator for the last 16 floors up to the 102nd floor.
Use of term
According to Merriam-Webster's Dictionary, "86" is a slang term that is used in the American popular culture as a transitive verb to mean throw out or get rid of, particularly in the food service industry as a term to describe an item no longer available on the menu, or to refuse service to a customer. Today, the term "86", and especially its past tense, "86ed" is widely used in American culture and beyond. The most widely accepted theory of the term's origin states it derives from a code supposedly used in some restaurants in the 1930s, wherein 86 was a shortform among restaurant workers for 'We're all out of it.' Snippets of said code were published in newsman Walter Winchell's column in 1933, where it was presented as part of a "glossary of soda-fountain lingo."