[Ads-l] Antedating "the whole shooting match" (1871)

Bonnie Taylor-Blake b.taylorblake at GMAIL.COM
Sat Feb 1 17:03:06 UTC 2020

On Fri, Jan 31, 2020 at 6:13 PM Peter Reitan <pjreitan at hotmail.com> wrote:

An earlier idiom, "the whole shoot" (1854), may be a predecessor.  In a
> post on my blog, I speculated it may have had an influence on "whole
> shebang."  Shebang, or che-bang, sometimes used as onomatopoeia for the
> sound of a gun, although "shebang" also had one or two other meanings.  I
> speculated a connection to shooting match as well, but did not include any
> early examples of that.
> https://esnpc.blogspot.com/2015/03/bad-ale-ramshackle-buildings-and-odd.html
> <
> https://esnpc.blogspot.com/2015/03/bad-ale-ramshackle-buildings-and-odd.html?m=1

Thank you, Peter. I find these "shoot" and "shooting" forms interesting.

The OED has for "the whole shoot" -- "the entire lot. to go the whole
shoot: to risk all." Jonathan Green's (wonderful) dictionary of slang
includes "the whole shoot" under "whole bang shoot."


But there he also shares "the whole shot," which we've not mentioned, and
which he defines as "everything or everybody relevant and involved." He
also offers the phrases "go [for] the whole shot" meaning "to make an
absolute commitment, to indulge oneself completely/wholeheartedly."

The OED indicates that "the whole shot" is obsolete (though Green provides
some modern examples) and provides some 17th-century texts as examples
meaning "sum and substance."

Before I share some early examples from American texts of "go the whole
shot," I thought I'd mention that "pay the whole shot" appears in American
texts from at least 1818 (and perhaps earlier), but I think this is likely
a reflection of "shot" in the sense, as OED notes, of "payment, share."
It's possible, of course, that "go [for] the whole shot" also hinges on
"shot" as "payment, share" and not on "shoot" in the sense of, well,
something having to do with shooting.

Anyway, I'll throw in two (American) examples of the "go the whole shot"
that precede those provided by Jonathan Green.


"Have you not always been a supporter of Gen. Jackson?" said a tory, a few
days since, to an old democrat, who was speaking of the danger of elevating
such a man as Martin Van Buren to the presidency. "Yes," was the reply, "I
always went the 'whole shot' for old Hickory, but I don't like pork well
enough to swallow a hog-yoke." -- Broome Rep. (The Pittsburgh Gazette, 16
September 1836, p. 2.)

The process was this: the contractors on the road were negotiated with to
take their pay partly in the stock of the company, which was worthless, and
partly in the stock of the state, which was easily procured from the
Comptroller; the contractors indemnifying themselves by enhancing the
prices of their contracts. So you see, by this adroit manoeuvre the state
was made to "go the whole shot." ("Correspondence of the Evening Post," The
Evening Post [New York, NY], 10 May 1841, p. 2.)


Just to illustrate how "pay the whole shot" was used in American
publications I've tacked on several examples below.

-- Bonnie

"Frederick the Great, of Prussia, passing by some regiments in review,
observed a soldier with a scar of a sabre wound on his face. Finding him to
be a Frenchman, the King said 'In what alehouse was you wounded' To which
the soldier quickly replied, alluding to one of the unsuccessful battles of
Frederick, *'In that where your majesty paid the whole shot!'*" (Under
"Anecdotes," The [Bellows Falls] Vermont Intelligencer, 21 September 1818,
p. 4. Asterisks indicate italicized text.)

"And here we will remark that the duty of 55 cents per gallon on rum and
brandy, as far as it affects us, the price of one gallon of cognac will pay
the whole shot per year. (From a letter to the editors, The New-York
American, 26 March 1824, p. 2.)

'[B]e thankful for being born in a country, where you, though only a
private citizen, and one possessed of no peculiar merit, may accomplish
your travels as a passenger on board a publick ship. *It doesn't cost a
thing.* Uncle Sam pays the whole shot; ... " (From "Fire Island Ana; Ned
Locus' Journey to the Lanjan Empire," The Evening Post [New York, NY], 14
July 1835, p. 2. Asterisks indicate italicized text.)

"It is very pleasant to have good music on such an occasion; and it's very
pleasant to have Uncle Sam pay the piper. Uncle Sam's Lecturers and Uncle
Sam's Music seem disposed to make themselves acquainted with the Bay State.
Does Uncle Sam pay the whole shot?" (The Springfield [Massachusetts]
Republican, 20 July 1839, p. 2.)

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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