The “whole shebang” and other phrases explained


Len Rome's Daily Feature of Little Known Facts

(WYTV)- The whole shebang seems to have come from the Civil War era, referring to a hut or a shed where you’re staying.

You had the whole thing to yourself.

But a shebang also applied to a tavern or drinking place, and it may go back to the Irish word shebeen for a ramshackle bar.

We say someone can’t hold a candle to someone else when his skills don’t even come close to being as good. Holding the candle to light a workspace would have been the job of an lowly assistant, so it’s a way of saying not even fit to be the assistant.

Have you been called on the carpet?

A servant or employee works on a plain floor, wood or stone and uncarpeted, and the master wants to see you in his carpeted, fancier part of the house. Something’s up, and you’re called on the carpet.

Go Bananas! it became popular in the 1950s, around the same time as the saying go ape, so there may have been some association between apes, bananas, and crazy behavior. Also, banana is just a funny-sounding word. In the 1920s, people said “banana oil!” to mean “nonsense!”

If something is run of the mill, it’s average, ordinary, nothing special.
It most likely comes from a run of fabric at a textile mill. It’s just the plain cloth before anyone’s decorated or embellished it.

Hands down comes from horse racing. If you’re way out in front, you can relax your grip on the reins and let your hands down. When you win hands down, you win easily.

The silver lining, something good in a big pile of gloom. We can trace the expression to a line from English poet John Milton from the early 17th century who first wrote about a dark cloud revealing a silver lining, or halo of bright sun.

You’ve got your work cut out for you comes from tailoring. To do a big sewing job, all the pieces of fabric are cut out before you sew them together and all laid out on front of you. Now get busy, that big pile of cut-outs isn’t going to sew itself together!

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