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Whole kit and kaboodle

Q From Elma Brooks: What is the source of the whole kit and kaboodle?

A Caboodle has a complicated history. It’s been spelt down the years in many different ways, and these days is usually listed in dictionaries with an initial “c”. It means a collection of objects, sometimes of people. It commonly turns up in the whole caboodle, meaning “the whole lot”. It’s recorded in the US from the middle of the nineteenth century. It’s probable that the word was originally boodle, with the phrase being the whole kit and boodle, but that the initial sound “k” was added to boodle for euphony.

There are examples of similar phrases around the beginning of the nineteenth century, such as whole kit and boiling (or whole kit and bilin’) and whole kit and cargo, with the original very likely to have just been the whole kit — it’s recorded in this form in Grose’s Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue in 1785. It was also current in the US as the whole boodle from the 1830s. It seems that the whole kit and caboodle eventually won the linguistic battle for survival in the US because of that repeated “k” sound, though Dialect Notes in 1908 said that these other versions were still known from various parts of the country. Sinclair Lewis used one of them in Main Street in 1920: “The whole kit and bilin’ of ’em are nothing in God’s world but socialism in disguise”.

Boodle is familiar as the relatively modern US word for money illegally obtained, particularly linked to bribery and corruption. This is usually suggested as coming from the Dutch boedel, “inheritance, household effects; possessions”. But it’s uncertain whether it’s the same word as the one in the whole kit and boodle. Some writers suggest the latter comes from the English buddle, meaning a bundle or bunch (closely connected with bindle, as in the North American bindlestiff for a tramp). As kit here means one’s equipment, to put the two together in the sense of everything that one has, equipment and personal possessions, seems reasonable.

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 10 Apr. 1999

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Last modified: 10 April 1999.