Dear experts,

I feel there's a slight difference in meaning between the following idioms but have difficulty pinpointing it:


Thank you,

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These two expressions – "All hands and the cook" and "all the world and his wife" – both mean "everybody."

"All hands and the cook" is a phrase from the old American west. According to a web site called "Old West Slang," it is "a cattle-range phrase meaning ˜everybody – the whole outfit, even the ornery cook.' " According to another web site called "The American Cowboy," the phrase was used as an emergency call usually to prevent a stampede.

It seems as though "all hands and the cook" often, but not always, means "everybody who can possibly work and contribute," as in these examples from Google:

"¢ With the assistance of "all hands and the cook -- and even husbands," the Jenks Library completed their move into the new building in one day and opened the building on September 21, 1975.

"¢ To this "log-rolling" task the WPA came with all hands and the cook, from Theodore Roosevelts's idea that "After the church and school, the free public ...

"¢ ... The yards were then trimmed, the anchor weighed, the cat-block hooked on, the fall stretched out, manned by all hands and the cook, and the anchor brought to ...

"¢ ... That its splendid beach is not made a more attractive gathering place for all hands and the cook, bathers and non-bathers, during the morning hour, is a ...

"All the world and his wife" is an older phrase. It means "Everybody, a large number of people," according to The Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, and "Everyone without exception" according to

The phrase appears in the writings of Jonathan Swift early in the 18th century in : Polite Conversation. Dialogue iii. : "There are all the world and his wife.".

In these examples from Google -- unlike "all hands and the cook" -- there is no connotation that everybody will be a helper:

"¢ He saw clearly that all the world and his wife expected of him something, but what exactly, he could not make out. (translation of "Anna Karenina")

"¢ How he welcomes at once all the world and his wife, And how civil to Folks he ne'er saw in his Life. Author: Christopher Anstey Source: New Bath Guide (fourth edition (1767), p. 130)

"¢ That's the thing about Kirstenbosch concerts. all the world and his wife tend to be there, and with good reason too. All ...

all the world and his wife praying for the Cup today. New Delhi, March 22 Faith can move mountains. Reason enough ...

So, "all hands and the cook" often refers to all those who can lend a helping hand. "All the world and his wife" refers to everybody. By the way, neither of these colorful expressions is used frequently – too bad!


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