Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Wed Nov 10 17:52:13 UTC 2010

The "hut" sense was one of the top five Northern slang terms of the Civil

My impression is that Anglo-Irish _shebeen_ is indeed the etymon. To "run
the shebang" commonly meant to be in charge of something. That would include
running the "whole shebang."


On Wed, Nov 10, 2010 at 12:20 PM, George Thompson
<george.thompson at>wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       George Thompson <george.thompson at NYU.EDU>
> Subject:      shebang
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> 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.
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