George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Wed Nov 10 17:20:43 UTC 2010

Working in a metal shebang with a sand-covered floor, tucked in a back corner of his milking barn, Greenberg and Elva Cole, an African-American colleague who likely stoked the pits, hung the turkeys from a nested pair of ceiling-mounted wagon wheels and smoked them over hickory logs.  NYTimes, November 10, 2010, section D (Dining), p. 5, col. 1 (continued from p. 1).

This is the second time in a few days I have seen this word in this sense, and as far as I can recall, the second time in my life.  Turns out that the OED has been there and has snapped it up:
1. a. A hut, shed; one's dwelling, quarters.
1862 W. WHITMAN Jrnl. 23-31 Dec. in Specimen Days & Collect (1882-3) 27 Their shebang enclosures of bushes. [4 other quotes; the latest:] 1890 N. P. LANGFORD Vigilante Days I. 83 Towards the close of the summer of 1862, the band organized by Plummer [an outlaw] having increased in numbers, he selected two points of rendezvous, as bases for their operations. These were called ‘shebangs’.

Very odd that there should be an outbreak of this "shebang" after 110 years.

I was familiar with "shebang" in the expression "the whole shebang" (I believe deriving from a Ugaritic word meaning "nine yards") -- OED says that this is a decade or two later than the "hut" meaning.  I was also familiar with "shebeen", meaning a hut or shed where booze is sold -- OED says that this date to the late 18th C.  The OED doesn't connect the two words, though it seems to me that a connection is likely.

I intended to make a note of the earlier "shebang", but forgot to -- it was probably in TLS, from an issue not yet searchable.


George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much lately.

The American Dialect Society -

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