In a recent email, a friend wrote this slang phrase as “kitten caboodle.” I like that a lot, but knew of the original version, and that motivated me to find out where it came from.
It means everything, entirely, the whole collection.
The phrase was first recorded in that form in 1884. Most of the similar phrases originate in the US. Caboodle was never in common use outside the USA and now has died out there as well, apart from its use in this phrase.
Variants of “kit and caboodle” used during the same period:
— kit and boodle
— kit and cargos
— kit and biling (“biling” is a regional pronunciation of “boiling,” originally “the whole boiling,” meaning an entire batch of soup or stew)
Other odd phrases meaning “all and everything” include:
— top and tail (1509)
— prow and poop (1561)
— the whole sub-cheese, an Anglo-Indian term
— lock, stock and barrel, a list of the important bits of a flintlock rifle
A kit is set of objects, as in a toolkit, or what a soldier would put in his kit-bag. The root was probably the Middle Dutch word “kitte,” meaning a cask or tub made of wooden staves. It then came to mean a small carrying basket, and later the collection of articles carried by a workman or soldier in a knapsack or valise. “Kit” also means a collection of parts that are intended to be put together by the buyer.
A caboodle (or boodle) is an old term meaning group or collection, usually of people. The source is a bit more obscure, but probably the original word was “boodle” and that the “ca” was added later in the interest of alliteration.
“Boodle” first appeared as slang in the US around 1833, meaning a crowd or pack of people or things, but later in the 19th century was used to mean money, especially money either stolen or acquired through illegal activity. While “boodle” in the “money” sense is considered a likely descendant of the Dutch “boedel,” meaning “money, property,” the use of “boodle” to mean “a collection of things or people” may be connected to “bundle.”
So not all the mystery surrounding “kit and caboodle” has been resolved but, in spite of that, I certainly would like to have a caboodle of kittens to play with.