About 40+ years ago, the Uniform Code of Military Justice had Article 86 as the absence without permission. I remember asking where someone was and getting the answer, "He 86'd over the weekend." I checked my moldy old 1951 edition to be sure.
-- Gene, the Incredible Librarian, retired
One would think with all the military around here you would have found out that the "86" is one of the NRTS codes used for disposition of items "Not Repairable This Station," "86" meaning trash.
-- Retrogoofy, the net
Asked the elves to thumb through their tiny Websterettes, and they define "coincidence" as "an accidental sequence of events that appear to have a causal relationship." Although I confess that both of these explanations for "86" are more appealing than the traditional short-order-cook-slang story. Gene's 1951 copy of the UCMJ is the first edition of the modern laws. Before that date, the military still operated under 17th-century laws adopted from the British. The NRTS codes are also too new to be the actual origin of the term "86," which has been known since the 1920s. But I can't believe they haven't contributed to 86's longevity. Oh, sorry, have to go. Our word-origin staff is rolling up their sleeves to take the insult out into the parking lot. Don't worry. For such a touchy group, they sure are easy to sucker punch.