whole shebang, the
What is a shebang? And how did it come to mean an entirety of something?
A shebang, or chebang, is a hut or dwelling. Its of unknown origin and dates to at least December 1862 when Walt Whitman used it in his Journal:
Their shebang enclosures of bushes.
The word also enjoyed a period where it was also used to refer to a vehicle. From Mark Twain’s Innocents At Home of 1872:
You’re welcome to ride here as long as you please, but this shebang’s chartered.
Figurative use to mean a business or thing of concern dates to 1869. Again from Twain in a letter to his publisher from that year:
I like the book, I like you and your style and your business vim, and believe the chebang will be a success.
The earliest citation in the OED for the phrase the whole shebang is from a 1924 letter by poet Harold Hart Crane:
I am growing more and more sick of factions, gossip, jealousies, recriminations, excoriations and the whole literary shee-bang.
(Source: Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Edition)
Copyright 1997-2014, by David Wilton