Printable Version
Pronunciation: shê-bæng Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: (US Slang) No, today's Good Word does not refer to a feminist rally. It means 1. Everything, excluding nothing; everything with all the trimmings. 2. A drinking establishment for the poor; a tavernous shanty,

Notes: Today's Good Word is heard today almost exclusively in the phrase the whole shebang, as 'to buy a suit, shirt, tie, shoes—the whole shebang'. It is, however, still available to refer to a drinking establishment, as 'to waste time in the shebangs by the river night after night'.

In Play: Our definition above, "everything", is literally true for the shebang in the expression the whole shebang: "I want onions, mustard, relish—the whole shebang—on my hotdog." You may use this phrase in any informal situation to express every part and accoutrement of anything: "I don't want a stripped-down model of a new car, I want the whole shebang."

Word History: Today's Good Word is of obscure origins to say the least. We are sure that it originated in the US and was used by Walt Whitman in 1862 in reference to a shelter made out of bushes, but by 1867 it referred to a dwelling in general, like pad in the 1960s. Some suspect it to have originated as Irish siebin "small mug, cheap ale", which entered English as shebeen "a dive, a dump where unlicensed liquor is sold". In 1878 shebang was used to refer to the same sort of place, but it was also being used as a general term for almost any kind of business, as 'to sell your shebang for cash on the barrel head'. By the 1920s the phrase "the whole shebang" began appearing. (We owe Rodger Collins our thanks, gratitude, admiration—the whole shebang—for suggesting today's mysterious Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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