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The kitty. an idle speculation

Posted by Bob on April 22, 2003

In Reply to: The kitty posted by TheFallen on April 21, 2003

: : : : : : : Put money in the kitty. I've searched all over the internet and can't find any meaning for this term; however, I can find endless uses of the term.

: : : : : : It's used primarily in the game of poker, and I believe that its origin may be found there as well. It means to put money into the pot (i.e. ante). However, its usage has evolved to refer to contributing to any pool of money.

: : : : : :
: : : : : : Main Entry: 1an·te
: : : : : : Pronunciation: 'an-tE
: : : : : : Function: noun
: : : : : : Etymology: ante-
: : : : : : Date: 1838
: : : : : : 1 : a poker stake usually put up before the deal to build the pot

: : : : : The Oxford English Dictionary has a quotation from 1892 using "kitty" in this sense. Earlier (OED has a quotation from 1825), "kitty" was "north. dial. and slang" for a prison.

: : : : : OED says of "kitty" in these two slang senses "Origin uncertain; cf. 'kidcote.'" "Kidcote" is "the name formerly given in various towns (as York, Lancaster, etc.) to the lock-up or prison."

: : : : : So maybe--speculating here--the kitty is called that because it's an enclosure (for money) and there are strict rules limiting when a player may draw out the contents.

: : : : In my Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, 'Kittys' is defined as:
: : : : 'Effects, furniture: stock in trade. To seize one's kittys: to take his sticks.'
: : : : A clue here?

: : : I would have thought it came from "kit" meaning a collection of things for a similar purpose.

: : Kit and caboodle -
: : This provides a link to both collection and money.
: : Meaning in Phrase Finder - The complete collection of things. Origin - US origin.
: : Kit is the usual meaning of the word, i.e. collection, as in toolkit. Caboodle is a corruption of boodle, an archaic word meaning much the same as kit. The alliteration is probably the reason for the redundancy of words here, like 'time and tide'.
: : Boodle -
: : 1. The whole collection or lot; caboodle. [Low, U. S.] --Bartlett.
: : 2. Money given in payment for votes or political influence; bribe money; swag. [Polit. slang, U. S.]
: : Source: Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, © 1996, 1998 MICRA, Inc.

: Having missspent a little of my youth playing poker, I feel obliged to add my tuppence worth. Kitty is indeed an alternate name for the pot. However, any bet that increases the total amount in the pot can be said to be "putting money into the kitty" - not just ante'ing up before the deal, but also calling, raising or seeing. The American Heritage Dictionary guesses that this sense of "kitty" stems indirectly from the Middle English "kitte" meaning wooden tub, or barrel, though what documentary evidence it has to support that in days of yore, materials or monies were divided up from out of a barrel, God alone knows.

As another poker player/observer/technician, I found the definition of "prison, jail" had some resonance. The best/fastest way to lose at poker is to participate in too many hands. The amateur allows the triumph of hope over reason, and stays in far too often. And the kitty, the ante, encourages this. Because you are already invested in the hand, you feel the urge to stay a little longer. (I like playing against people who think like that.) They lock themselves in to protect an investment.

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