What is the etymology of the phrase "the whole shebang", or "whole shebang"? I only know the term "shebang" from a computer science standpoint, but I'm not sure of any other uses of it outside of this phrase. So, I was wondering if that's where the phrase originated.
closed as general reference by Robusto, tchrist♦, MetaEd♦, Matt E. Эллен♦, F'x Sep 12 '12 at 23:33
This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.
The earliest citation that I can find for shebang in the Unix sense is:
1989 Larry Wall, Post to comp.sources.bugs titled "perl 3.0 patch #7" Perl didn't grok setuid scripts that had a space on the first line between the shebang and the interpreter name.
In this sense, shebang is a shortening of hash-bang or sharp-bang; but Larry Wall is fond of puns (for example, his book title Programming Perl is a pun on the title of Jon Bentley's column "Programming Pearls" in Communications of the ACM) so I am confident that if he was the coiner of the term he would have intended an allusion to the already existing word shebang.
In general use, shebang is fossilized in the phrase "the whole shebang" where it means "any matter of present concern; thing; business", but the OED notes that this developed from an earlier group of uses:
1. a. A hut, shed; one's dwelling, quarters. b. Applied to a vehicle. c. A low drinking establishment, a tavern.
with first citation from 1862 (quoted by Roaring fish in another answer).
So this question is a fascinating example of the recency illusion.
Forms: Also †chebang, shee-bang.
Etymology: Of obscure origin.
If OED doesn't know the origin asking EL&U is a bit optimistic, but note that it was around in 1862
- 1862 W. Whitman Jrnl. 23–31 Dec. in Specimen Days (1882–3) 27 Their shebang enclosures of bushes.
which was long before Unix.