One of the things I’ve noticed during my exploration of the unusual words and phrases that populate the (American) English language is that many of the search hits I find related to “idioms,” “slang,” “American phrases,” etc., connect to ESL (English as a Second Language) sites. Being a single-language person myself, I am a big admirer of people who, through choice or circumstance, undertake the hard work necessary to master a second (and sometimes a third, fourth, etc.) language.
As noted early on in this series, American English is an amalgam of the languages, dialects, and traditions that have contributed to this nation’s great “melting pot.” The addition of relatively new immigrant groups in the last half century or so, along with the combination of both historic and modern regional differences in a geographically large country, combine to create a complex mix of language that is, at times, confusing to this native speaker—so much so that I can only imagine the impact on someone who is trying to learn English.
With all that as a backdrop, I introduce this week’s phrase:
Originating in various forms in Great Britain sometime in the 19th century, “kit and caboodle” is a slang expression referring to “everything” or “all of it.”
The first part of the phrase will be familiar to those of us who recognize the word “kit” for its association with the essentials contained in a soldier’s backpack or a sailor’s seabag. Historically “kit” is likely related to the Dutch word “kitte,” referring to a cask or tub constructed of wooden staves, but the term was eventually broadened to include a collection of tools necessary for a particular job, all of which might have been carried in containers such as baskets, knapsacks, and valises.
Caboodle (also kaboodle) is a bit more mysterious. Most sources believe it is based on the word “boodle,” meaning “a crowd or pack” of people or things. For a period of time during the late 19th century, boodle was used in the U.S. to refer to large sums of money, especially money that was illegally obtained through bribery or some other form of corruption. The phrase was finalized, at least in its current form, when the hard “ca” sound was added to the beginning of “boodle” simply because it made the entire phrase more fun to say.
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Posted for Jenny Matlock’s AlphabeThursday study of the letter “K.” For Round 5 of this long-running meme, I am focusing on colloquialisms and idioms—words and phrases that are unique to a region or have meanings that aren’t necessarily discernible from the combined meanings of the individual words. I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s exploration of American English as much as I have.
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Sources for this post include:
Wikipedia ~ Kaboodle
The Word Detective ~ kit and caboodle
World Wide Words ~ kit and caboodle