March 25, 2022
Thanks to Alissa Simon, HMU Tutor, for today’s post.
Sometimes, because I love language, I like to make language lists. On a recent walk, I was thinking about the phrase “the whole ball of wax,” which turned into a game of listing phrases that mean everything…. And I quickly realized that we have a lot of ways to say everything. Each one is uniquely different, but all fun and silly. These phrases prove that language can be playful, unique, and specific to identities or cultures. However, even though they are specific, they still translate to others outside of that niche. For example, it is well-known that Shakespeare popularized a number of phrases from a variety of cultures that we still use today. These phrases became popular, in part, because of the way that they play with language. In other words, language has the flexibility to let us express ourselves, and yet also allows us to be understood.
So, for example, if you had never heard the phrase “the whole ball of wax,” you could use context clues to figure it out (or ask someone) and then possibly begin using it yourself. At the very least, you would be able to identify its meaning for next time. I am interested in the way language evolves for a couple of reasons. First, I love language, so all language play is positive in my mind. Also, language can create unities through something as silly as a shared metaphor. And finally, I am researching AI topics (for another project), and language presents significant difficulties for artificial intelligence. Intelligent machines may be able understand new phrases, but they don’t often coin them. Making metaphors demonstrates an advanced level of thinking, and so I wonder: what will it mean when artificial intelligences begin to make their own metaphors?
Having said all of that, I simply thought it would be fun and interesting to list a few phrases that mean “everything.” Enjoy the games!
Kit and caboodle: Did you know that boodle used to mean a lot of something? It stems from the Dutch boedel, which means property.
House and home: Oh, I love this phrase. Mistress Quickly uses it to nail Falstaff for eating and drinking too much in Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part II. Of course, Falstaff does everything to excess, so it’s an entirely fitting phrase. However, I was surprised to learn that Shakespeare did not coin this term. Also, from the minimal research that I found, I could not locate any real reason to have the duplication of “house and home.” I don’t know if house and home have always been synonyms (as they are now), which means that their use doubles the effect, or if they used to mean to different things and essentially grew in likeness. In either case, using “house and home” compounds the humor, exasperation, or desperation of Mistress Quickly, but doesn’t stop Falstaff in the least.
The whole shebang; the whole enchilada; the whole mcgillicutty; the whole schmear; the whole ball of wax; the whole nine yards: I mean, when you see this list, you think, why can’t people just say “everything”? Why do we keep creating more synonyms to express one idea!? We do this because, of course, all of these are much more entertaining than a single word, especially a much more generic term. Merriam-Webster defines everything as: “all that exists;” “all that relates to a subject;” “all that is important;” or “all sorts of other things – used to indicate related but unspecified events.” To my mind, there is nothing drier than “all sorts of things, indicating unspecified events.” I would much rather hear the whole enchilada, which gives a little flavor (no pun intended) of the original author too.
Lock, stock, and barrel: This phrase refers to the parts of a musket. Since guns have been around awhile, it might be a fairly old phrase, but the history is a bit murky.
All the marbles: Marbles used to be really popular, but have largely faded from popular culture. Yet this phrase transports us back to those marble slinging days. It is interesting to note how many phrases surface from popular pastimes. For example, from marbles, we also get the phrase “Don’t fudge” which means, don’t cross the line.
All that and a bag of chips: This phrase brings back many memories from the 90s. It is interesting because it grew from the shorter phrase “all that” which used to mean something like it’s the best, the hippest, the hottest thing around. Somehow, “all that and a bag of chips” means the best AND all the rest, which evolved into a synonym of everything. Don’t you love how language works? For more about all that and a bag of chips, this article says it all.
The works: Stemming from language regarding machines and machine parts, this phrase now applies to pizzas and sandwiches (as in: give me the works!).
Thanks for wandering through a number of random phrases on the final days of spring break. Feel free to post your own phrases in the comments below.
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