Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Episode 226: Whole Kit and Caboodle


This week Shauna and Dan look into the whole kit and caboodle. Interesting, both of the phrases existed by themselves before they made common cause to outlast many of their rival phrases. Bonus: Make-up tackle boxes, planting people, and clowns!

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Bunny Trails: A Word History Podcast
Episode 226: Whole Kit and Caboodle
Record Date: March 2, 2024
Air Date: March 6, 2024


Welcome to Bunny Trails, a whimsical adventure of idioms and other turns of phrase.

I’m Shauna Harrison

And I’m Dan Pugh

Each week we take an idiom or other turn of phrase and try to tell the story from its entry into the English language, to how it’s used today.

Opening Hook
In the song, Love Me, Eminem, along with 50 Cent and Obie Trice, are exploring ways in which someone should love them, essentially working through a list of crude elevator pitches. One such pitch, from Eminem, is to focus on reverse psychology and convince them they shouldn’t love him. In one line, he says:

My noodle is cock-a-doodle, my clock's cuckoo
I got screws loose, yeah, the whole kit and caboodle
End Quote

Leave it to Eminem to find a way to work “whole kit and caboodle” into a rap. But it is our phrase, and this song is one that kept coming up as I started to explore.

This one comes to us from listener Rachel from Boston, who was wondering about the phrase and checked the show to see if we’ve done it. So thank you Rachel for the suggestion! If you want to suggest a phrase for the show, reach out to us at or on Patreon at

For whole kit and caboodle, it is necessary to break the two words into their own uses, because both were used independently; whole kit as a standalone, and whole caboodle as a standalone, before the two became intertwined. Though they both meant the same thing. Let’s start with the older of the two, Whole Kit. From the Oxford English Dictionary for kit:

A number of things or persons viewed as a whole; a set, lot, collection; esp. in the whole kit
End Quote

Let’s start with “whole kit”, which was in use prior to 1785 because the attestation we can find is in Francis Grose’s Classical Dictionary of Vulgar Tongue. This is from the entry for “kit”, which is a dancing master because of the kit the master always carried with them, but also:

The kit, is likewise the whole of a soldier’s necessaries, the content of his knapsack, and is used also to express the whole of different commodities; Here take the whole kit, i.e. take all.
End Quote  

Elizabeth-Town Gazette Nov 3, 1818, New Jersey

This is from an entry of words, extracted from a vocabulary of provincialisms in the county of Somerset, in England. Unfortunately, the text does not tell us what vocabulary this was, or I’d try to find the source document. Anyway this reminded the author of many New-England expressions. One of these is the word ‘kit’:

Kit, s. A tribe, collection, or gang; as, the whole kit of them
End Quote

Here’s one more for “whole kit”, the The Vocabulary of East Anglia by Robert Forby.  It is found in the entry for kit and is the 3rd definition:

A collection or assemblage. Ex. “I found the whole kit of them together;” the whole gang or band
End Quote

Now let’s look at the other phrase, Whole Caboodle. This is from the Oxford English Dictionary’s entry for “caboodle”:

the whole caboodle: the whole lot (of persons or things)
End Quote

Wisconsin Herald - Dec 9, 1848, Lancaster, Wisconsin
This piece is a quote from a person who the editor of the paper calls a loafing Whig politician in Grant County. (The Whigs were a conservative political party in the United States in the 1800s and for a couple of decades was a major political party in the USA.) Anyway, it appears this person would show up and run for any and all offices available. In this person’s rant they go on about how all politicians are bad. Here is the closing line in the rant:

It’s no use to be a “Son,” it’s no use to be a Whig, it’s no use to be nothin’. I’ll cut the whole caboodle.
End Quote

Here’s another example , this one reprinted in the Daily Gate City, Nov 8, 1856 out of Keokuk, Iowa.

The Albany Knickerbocker is responsible for the following recipe to destroy fleas, “Take a boarding house pie, cut it into thin slices, and lay it where the insects can have full access to it. In less than fifteen minutes, the whole caboodle of them will be dead with the cholic.
End Quote

A year later, 1857, the same joke about how bad boarding house pies are was printed in the Albany Knickerbocker in reference to flies instead of fleas. Someone didn’t like boarding house pies.

One more for “whole caboodle”. This is from Dictionary of Americanisms, A Glossary of Words and Phrases usually regarded as peculiar to The United States by John Russell Bartlett. The copy I found was printed in 1859.

Caboodle. The whole caboodle is a common expression, meaning the whole lot. I know not the origin of the word. It is used in all the Northern States and New England. The word boodle is used in the same manner.
End Quote

More on boodle in a minute.

And now, let’s move on to the two of these phrases getting combined.

The first time I could find them together was from an article in The Alleghanian - Nov 15, 1860,  on the election returns for Pennsylvania counties, looking specifically at Cambria County where Abraham Lincoln, Old Abe as he was sometimes called, beat the other contenders by an overwhelmingly large margin.

Arrange the figures of the opposition as you will - put Douglas, Breckinridge, and Bell all together, and Old Abe has a ‘large and respectable’ majority over the whole kit and caboodle of them!
End Quote

The Democratic Press, May 22, 1873, Ravenna, Ohio
This is from a story called Love and Revenge. It follows Alfred, who is dating Hattie. A duplicitous man named Doc makes Hattie think Alfred is a scoundrel and she leaves Alfred for Doc. Months later, stewing at what he has lost, he plots his revenge through the 1,000 gallon water tank that sits upon the top of the house. He gains access to the home where Doc and Hattie are sleeping and employs his plan.

He drew forth a large augur, and he stood upon a table and bored through the wall overhead right into that awful tank of water. With one wild shriek, which was its last, the pent-up waters rushed forth and drowned the whole kit and caboodle of ‘em. Not a vestige of the house remains.
End Quote

Kind of demented, but good use of the phrase.

There was a time, in New England at least, where the words kit and caboodle were smashed together. Here is an entry from The Journal of American Folk-Lore, edited by William Wells Newell, dated 1890. It follows the entry for Kerhoot, which was used as the whole kerhoot to describe a crowd or assembly.

Kitcaboodle. - Used in New England, in the same sense as the preceding…
The original of this word was the phrase “kit and caboodle” which, possibly, may be still in use in some parts of New England. In this phrase kit generally referred to individuals, and caboodle to their belongings - “the whole kit and caboodle of them” making a stronger expression than either “the whole kit of them” or “the whole caboodle of them”. The phrase was shortened to “kit ‘n’ caboodle,” which was probably the immediate ancestor of the above.
End Quote

I think it’s important to note here that while some, like this entry, claim kit was about people, we’ve seen numerous examples where that wasn’t true.

Here’s a piece from an article called George Ade’s Fable, printed in The Independent Oct 16, 1901 out of Honolulu, Hawaii.

John the First was living on the Fringe of Civilization, but he wanted to get away from it altogether. So he packed his whole Kit and Caboodle into a Prairie Schooner that had a Jug of Apple Jack hidden in the Straw.
End Quote

Here’s another example from the Clio Messenger, Apr 21, 1921 out of Clio Michigan.

Where’s Mac, an’ all the boys, anyhow?

Out ter the funeral; that’s what’s the matter with this town. The whole kit an’ caboodle gone across the creek to help plant old Dad Calkins.
End Quote

Here’s one more, from a shampoo ad in the Evening Star, Feb 3, 1952.

The whole kit and caboodle you need for your “poodle”!
End quote

Apparently they enjoyed the rhyme enough to call a woman’s hair her “poodle”.

We know kit migrated to mean the whole thing by the 1780s, and caboodle meant roughly the same thing by the 1840s. What we don’t know is why they got paired. Some seem to claim that kit refers to people and caboodle to things so pairing them is intentional, but we see too many historical examples where that simply isn’t true. It may also be because of the alliterative effect between the two words because they both sound like they start with a hard “k” in English. But we really don’t know. However, by the 1860s, they were definitely being paired together and them being joined appears to be the predominant way they were used in the 1900s and beyond.

One last note before we head to our modern usages. I promised we would come back to boodle. So here we are. I’ll turn to Gary Martin of for a citation he found and a few notes:

This piece, titled 'The Origin of Boodle', is from The Dunkirk Observer-Journal, New York, September 1888:

"It is probably derived from the Old-English word bottel, a bunch or a bundle, as a bottel of straw. "The whole kit and boodle of them" is a New England expression in common use, and the word in this sense means the whole lot. Latterly, boodle has come to be somewhat synonymous with the word pile, the term in use at the gaming table, and signifying a quantity of money. In the gaming sense, when a man has "lost his boodle", he has lost his pile or whole lot of money, whatever amount he happened to have with him."
End Quote

Gary Martin goes on to say in his assessment:

…we can't confirm … that the word caboodle migrated from boodle in order to sound better when matched with kit. It is possible that that's what happened, but the dates of the known citations don't support it. Whole kit and caboodle is recorded before whole kit and boodle and whole caboodle comes well before both. Perhaps that's just the inadequacy or either records or research and that citations with the appropriate dates will emerge later.
End Quote

We have to agree that we just won’t know if boodle became caboodle or if boodle was simply a shortened version of caboodle and the explanation from the Dunkirk Observer-Journal was merely an 1888 word nerd’s speculation. The author of that 1888 piece did start with “It is probably derived from” so it seems the author wasn’t certain when they started. But we just don’t have enough information from the time to be any more certain than that old-timey word nerd had.  

In our behind the scenes for this episode, we’re going to explore some of the funny and odd takes I found for this phrase while researching, but that just didn’t fit into the show. And we need to say a huge thank you to those who make Bunny Trails possible.

A Quick Thank You
This episode is sponsored by our amazing Patrons on Patreon. And the cool thing about Patreon is it is 100% free to join the Bunny Trails community!

We have new things every weekday on the feeds, including a conversation about what everyone is reading, early access to the show, patron’s only polls, and our behind the scenes video which always includes a little about our week before the show and a cool feature after the show.

We’ve got some other pretty cool stuff, too, like Original Digital Artwork once a month, made by Shauna, and awesome name recognition like Pat Rowe gets every episode. And our top spot is currently occupied by the amazing Mary Halsig Lopez.

You can join the Bunny Trails community for free at bunnytrailspod on Patreon.


Modern Uses

As the legend goes, in 1986, Vanna White was photographed using a Plano® fishing tackle box to stow and organize her makeup. With a visionary eye to the future and the need for a functional but fun cosmetics case, Plano Molding Company launched Caboodles in 1987 with the On-The-Go Girl™ molded from the same functional designs of a tackle box. Ever since, we've been empowering makeup mavens, neat freaks, and fashionistas to keep their essentials stylishly organized.
End Quote

That’s right, we’re kicking off with the make-up tackle box known as Caboodles. They are still in business and still going strong.

I couldn’t find when Purina’s Kit ‘N Kaboodle cat food came out, but I remembered seeing commercials for it in the late 80s or early 90s. So I found one that has stuck with me from 1991. In it, a live-action cat is chasing an animated mouse and the mouse finally stops and says to the cat:

Do I look like dinner for a guy like you? I’m a one-course meal. You want the whole Kit ‘N Kaboodle. It’s a real dining experience.
End Quote

The ad also touts the 5 exciting colors and shapes. I cannot fathom why your cat would care about those, so if you are time-traveling back to 1991 with your cat I would say buyer beware regarding whether or not this cat food is right for your feline’s fancies.

Kit & Kaboodle was a TV show in the UK that aired in 1998. In a trailer for the show that I found on Youtube, the show gives a quick overview of the world of the twin dolls Kit and Kaboodle:

Welcome to Kit and Kaboodle’s magical world of the forever forest. Young viewers will share the delightful adventures of these two adorable twin dolls and their friends. Today’s kids will grow fond of this high quality series’ sweet characters in which they will recognize themselves.
End Quote

The Whole Kit & Kaboodle is a scrapbooking website by graphic artist Andrea Meyer. Here’s the information from her ‘about the designer’ page

There are a lot of scrapbooking papers, accessories, and embellishments available. However, finding the most compelling items and putting them together with a creative and professional look can be a daunting challenge. That’s where Andrea comes in! Her passion for scrapbooking and her eye for color and design are evident in her scrapbooking kits.

After working seven years for various retail scrapbooking stores and manufacturers, Andrea started in May 2008.
End Quote


Let’s look at this 2022 book by Anna Pignataro called Kit and Caboodle. Here’s the synopsis:

Kit is a witch, but she isn’t very good at witchy things. One Halloween, a bedraggled bat named Caboodle comes tumbling through Kit’s window. She tries using magic to fix his broken wing, but the results are … unexpected.

Caboodle causes havoc in the house as he waits for his wing to heal. Kit is at her wit’s end. But when Caboodle goes missing, Kit realizes just how special he is to her.
End Quote

Wrap Up
Usually when two different phrases happen independently of each other, they stay independent. And often, one of them dies out while the other lives on. But these two, the whole kit and the whole caboodle, seem to have found a mutual path forward by combining themselves into something that seems to have stood the test of time. And I think that’s kind of cool.

That’s about all we have for today. If you have any thoughts on the show, or pop culture references we should have included,
reach out to us on Patreon, or comment on our website

It’s poll time!

Recently we asked our Patrons, what's your take on clowns?

The vast majority said clowns were neither funny nor creepy.

Well, our patrons might be right about clowns generally being unfunny… however, on the second item… clowns are unquestionably creepy. It’s the unknown, unexpected clown that’s the problem. I think serial killers like clowns because they allow for random, anonymous shenanigans… I can’t explain it totally but clowns just weird me out. And I mean no offense against any individual clowns. A friend of mine, Puddin’, is a clown and he’s a wonderful person. He’s quite entertaining and makes adorable balloon creations. When not in uniform, he does awesome stuff for the community.

As an adult, I'm not really a fan of clowns. But I don't hate them. Growing up in the Dallas/Fort Worth market, I remember a TV show I used to watch after school with clowns in it. I had to look it up but it was called Club 27 (on channel 27) and it featured Poppy the clown and Bonkers. I thought Poppy was funny when I was a kid, but not necessarily in a clown way. Bonkers was more the silly, slapstick style of clown. He never spoke. The show aired 1989 to 1991. I’ll put an old press photo I found on the Internet Archive website up on Patreon.

Sometime during their run, we went to a show where Bonkers was performing and my Dad got randomly selected from the audience because we were close to the stage. He told me later that Bonkers asked permission from him once he was on stage before doing the silly stuff they did. And I was shocked. Because Bonkers doesn’t talk. My Dad of course didn’t know anything about Bonkers so he didn’t know not to tell me. But I still think it’s cool that my Dad was willing to get up on stage with these clowns he knew nothing about just to impress his kids. That’s the part that has stuck with me all these years. And probably why clowns don’t bother me.

As a reminder, our silly polls mean absolutely nothing and are not scientifically valid. But Patrons of all levels get to take part. Head over to to take this week’s poll!


Thanks for joining us. We’ll talk to you again next week. Until then remember,

Words belong to their users.


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