Kit and caboodle
When I use this phrase, I use it figuratively to mean the lot, everything there is and usually preface kit with whole. I use the idiom interchangeably with lock, stock and barrel which conveys the same sort of sense. Having used it the other day, I paused and realised I didn’t really understand what it meant.
Of the two components of the idiom, kit is relatively straightforward and is common parlance to this day. As a noun it is used to describe a set of articles or equipment needed for a specific purpose such as to play sports or to provide first aid or the appurtenances we associate with being a member of the military. What is interesting is that it probably owes its origin to the Middle Dutch word kitte which meant a cask or basket made of wooden staves. Over time its sense migrated from the item used to transport stuff to the articles of equipment themselves. By the late 1700s kit had become a portmanteau word to describe “a number of things or persons viewed as a whole, a collection.”
We see from around 1785 onwards, kit spawning a number of idioms to reflect the sense of completeness or a full set. Particularly common in its usage was the whole kit which our old friend, Francis Grose, defined in his Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, as “the whole of a soldier’s necessaries, the contents of his knapsack.” Other variants included kit and cargo and the rather odd kit and biling. It turns out that biling was a regional variant of the word boiling and referred to a pot of stew or soup. More germane to our particular enquiries another expression for the whole lot emerged – the whole kit and boodle.
Our next question, then, is what is a boodle? It seems to have emerged, across the pond as a slang expression for a crowd or pack of things. Later on, its meaning somewhat contracted as it was particularly used to refer to money, especially dosh which had been stolen or otherwise acquired illegally. It is tempting to associate the origin of the word to the same root as a bundle but, equally, it may have been derived from another Dutch word, boedel, which meant money or property.
What is clearer is that just as the whole kit emerged in Blighty as an idiom for the whole lot, so the whole boodle did in the States. The rather beguiling mix of Gothic horror and comedy which is John Neal’s The Down-Easters, published in 1833, contains the line, “I know a feller ‘twould whip the whool boodle of ‘em.” I think we can conclude from this that it was already in common parlance by the time the book was written and the reader would have understood the sense.
By 1848 caboodle had emerged, The Ohio State Journal noting that “the whole caboodle will act upon the recommendation of the Ohio Sun.” Whether they did or not, I know not, but caboodle is used in the same sense as boodle and, indeed, kit. Grammarians will nod sagely and say of course because the prefix ker, also spelt as ca or ka or cur, is often used as a form of intensifier, not adding any particular sense to the word but just strengthening the word.
With two separate expressions knocking around, it was almost inevitable that they would be joined together, particularly as boodle having now attracted an intensifier offered, the opportunity for a rather pleasing form of alliteration. The first citation of our phrase, according to the OED, appeared in the Boston Globe in 1888, “If any ‘railroad lobbyist’ cast reflections on his character he would wipe out the whole kit and caboodle of them.” However, it had appeared in the Syracuse Sunday Standard in November 1884 – “more audiences have been disappointed by him and by the whole kit-and-caboodle of his rivals.”