meaning and origin of ‘everything but the kitchen sink’



The phrase everything but the kitchen sink, or the kitchen stove, and variants mean practically everything imaginable.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary (2nd edition – 1989), it was originally used in forces’ slang of the Second World War to describe the weaponry used during intense bombardment; the earliest quotation in this dictionary is from A Dictionary of Forces’ Slang, 1939-1945 (London, 1948), in which the lexicographer and etymologist Eric Honeywood Partridge (1894-1979) wrote that kitchen sink was

used only in the phrase indicating intense bombardment.

But I have found instances of the phrase indicating that it originated, in American English, in civil contexts of the early 20th century. One of them is from Prince or Chauffeur? A Story of Newport (Chicago, Illinois – 1911), by Lawrence Perry (1875-1954):

He was vaguely amused at the remark of a woman beyond the first bloom of youth, who, turning to her companion and nodding toward a socially famous young matron, who preceded them down the stairs fairly jingling with jewelry, remarked:
“I say, Jerry, Mrs. Billy has put on everything but the kitchen stove.”

On 10th July 1911, The Winnipeg Tribune (Winnipeg, Manitoba) published the description by a New Yorker of a meal he had at the house of a Russian princess:

First of all we had caviar. It was the real imported article, and it tasted not unlike bird shot pickled in hair oil. With the aid of a white dinner wine (also imported) I was able to wash down the first course without much of a struggle. The next course was more difficult. It was a thick, sour soup, and I am sure that it had everything in it but the kitchen sink.

This advertisement was published in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) of 17th June 1915:

You can get in everything except the kitchen stove!
Our wardrobe trunks make vacation packing easy.
Four sizes—berth high, upright steamer, three quarters and full.

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