Monday, 29 July 2013


I happened to read the word shebang yesterday and, perhaps it was seeing it in print, I suddenly realised that I had no idea what it really meant or where it came from. The whole shebang. A shebang was a nineteenth century American word for a log cabin and then for a tavern.

Then it came to mean a kind of cart in which you could hire a seat. Of course, you could hire the whole shebang. So in a story of 1880 a traveller is told that he has a seat specially reserved for him:

"...the box seat was purchased by that other gentleman in Sacramento. He paid extra for it, and his name's on your way-bill!"

"That," said Yuba Bill, scornfully, "don't fetch me even ef he'd chartered the whole shebang. Look yar, do you reckon I'm goin' to spile my temper by setting next to a man with a game eye? And such an eye! Gewhillikins!"

And so the whole shebang came to mean the entirety of something usually only dealt with in parts, and thus the modern usage.

Mind you, nobody really knows where the original word came from: perhaps Irish shebeen for tavern, or French char-a-banc for cart.

Part of the shebang


  1. Not forgetting...


  2. Also I learn from the radio today that shebang is the collective noun for a group of one-man-bands...or should that be one-men-bands??

  3. I've always been wondering ever since I heard this song in the film Velvet Goldmine.

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