The other day, as I was giving my cat, Sammy, his usual evening repast, which consists of a half-can of wet food (he snacks on dry food all day), he said, “Just give me the whole shebang.” The next day, as I was repeating the process, he said, “Just give me the whole shooting match.” And that got me wondering: What’s the difference between a shebang and a shooting match?

As it turns out, not much. Neither is there much to distinguish between the whole shebang, the whole shooting match, the whole enchilada, and the whole ball of wax. There is, however, something to be noted about the whole entire thing; that is, regardless of whether thing refers to a shebang, a shooting match, an enchilada, or a ball of wax, the whole entire thing apparently denotes two of them — a whole one (1), plus an entire one (1+1=2).

After I broke all this down for Sammy, he said: “Fine, Larry. Just give me the full boat.” After a momentary pause, he added: “Ya know, I don’t think you’re playing with a full deck, Steve.” (For reasons known only to him, Sammy randomly refers to me as Larry, Steve, or Bill.) That, of course, sent me scrambling again.

I was reasonably sure I knew what was meant by full boat, a poker term that’s been extended to connote the entirety of something. Likewise, I was pretty comfortable with the full monty. But if I was right about the implications of not playing with a full deck  (I was), Sammy’s comment was something less than complimentary. I approached him boldly.

“Not for nothin’, Sam,” I said authoritatively. “But exactly why would you make a snide crack like that after I’d given you such a cogent, terminological elucidation?”

Doing his level cat-best to look nonchalant, Sam said: “I’m starting to worry about you, Bill.”

“Is it my vocabulary to which you object?” I asked. “Or is your beef of a different nature?”

“First of all, I don’t like beef, Steve. If you don’t have a mouse handy, I prefer fish. Secondly, I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Look, Sam,” I said. “That’s no way to be talking to the guy who feeds you and cleans your litter box.”

“Just give me the whole entire enchilada, Larry. And tell your story walking.”