No doubt you came out of this Christmas with oodles of gifts – enough to fill a cab, I’m sure, or even a caboose. Any more and your full-to-overfull house would go kaboom. Books, booze, toys, togs, the whole kit and caboodle. And maybe, if you are an ailurophile, even a caboodle of kittens.
Ah, well, even without the kitten caboodle, or a cab with oodles of noodles, poodles, doodles, or, uh, Boodles Gin (which may or may not be served at Boodle’s gentlemen’s club in London, but surely is at the Boodles Challenge tennis event), or even a couple canoodling in the back, there is the eternal question: what the heck is a caboodle?
It will no doubt clear things up if I tell you that the whole kit and caboodle is a more recent version of the whole caboodle and of the whole kit and boodle, and that caboodle is thought to come from kit and boodle. (I frankly think the presence of kit was just the needed little nudge in the direction of adding that phonaesthetic ca or ka at the beginning, which has the sound of a small explosion preceeding a bigger one, or of a backswing or other preparatory step for some sudden éclat; we see it in not only kaboom but ka-ching, alakazam, and various places also as the variant ker: kerplop, kerplunk, etc. Not to mention its effect on words that just happen to have it, such as catastrophe.) So caboodle doesn’t exist as a word outside that phrase, and is really a variant of boodle.
Oh, boodle? Well, I’d think you’d be able to guess what it means – “pack, lot, bunch,” typically with a dismissive tone. Its source? Uncertain, but perhaps Dutch boedel, “possession, estate, etc.” But, now, boodle by itself has an almost silly sound, doesn’t it? A little daft, with that loopy /u/ spelled oo, and the tone we can get when we hear words containing it (noodle is a silly word for one’s head or brain, and can also refer to playing around idly, for example on a piano; poodle is a name for a dog that is seldom taken seriously, even though they do bite; doodle is a light, probably inane drawing; oodle is an overeager term for a large quantity; toodle-oo is a light way of saying farewell). It has a playful boo and then idles or toddles off at the end. But add the ca and you get an echo of kaboom and a sense of leaping-up magnification.
And try kit and boodle against kit and caboodle. The first is two trochees, reminiscent of the triplets of liturgical Latin:
Fed a poodle with a noodle,
But he ate the kit and boodle
And concluded with exudal.
It’s fairly simple, rhythmically. The second makes a dactyl of the first foot, and really gives us something like alakazam or Kalamazoo or thingamajig, but with an extra unstressed beat at the end – much livelier. It also has a repetition of the /k/, with a /t/ (typically glottalized) between, which gives a clicky catchiness before mooving into the noodle-muddle of boodle – perhaps like the clickety-clack of a train loaded with goods (the Polar Express, perhaps?), including, of course, a caboose.