“Kit out,” again

Lidl is a German supermarket chain that has operated stores in the U.S. since 2017, including one in our area, which explains why we get a Lidl circular every week. This appeared in the one we received today:


In British lingo, “kit out” means equip or outfit. The first two citations in the OED are from 1961 and 1962, respectively:

  • Kingsley Amis, New Maps of Hell: “There are cases on record of writers having to kit out contemporary narratives with aliens and space-ships in order to make a sale.”
  • The Guardian: “A child can have ten days skiing for under £25 and be kitted out by Moss Brothers into the bargain.”

I covered American “kit out” in 2016 and discerned a “trendlet.” The Lidl circular suggests it might be growing into a full-fledged trend.

It’s interesting, by the way, that the product advertised should be an electric kettle — ubiquitous in Britain, quite scarce in the U.S.


36 thoughts on ““Kit out,” again

    1. Generally not in the sense of equipment or uniform, but yes in cases like first-aid kit, drum kit, or a pre-organized collection of parts to make something, like a computer kit or a radio kit.

  1. Another creeping Britishism. “Language of soccer “ too … for uniform!

    On Mon, Jun 8, 2020 at 5:27 PM Not One-Off Britishisms wrote:

    > Ben Yagoda posted: “Lidl is a German supermarket chain that has operated > stores in the U.S. since 2017, including one in our area, which explains > why we get a Lidl circular every week. This appeared in the one we received > today: In British lingo, “kit out” means equip or o” >

    1. It’s probably original a military expression. Pack Up Your Troubles In Your Old Kit Bag and Smile Smile Smile was a famous song from the First World War.

      1. No, the military expression came late in the game. “Kit” originally referred to a vessel or container and was used since the 1400s. “Kit-bag” shows up in 1898, according to the OED: “I looked at the marching boots..and wished they were in my kit-bag along with the wonderful assortment of articles..technically described as ‘small kit’.”

  2. There are probably no limits to what one is able to kit out. And whatever it is one is kitting out, it will almost certainly be improved and/or completed by the process.

  3. There’s a high chance that, given that Lidl’s long been established in the UK, that all their English-language copy comes out of their UK HQ on Worple Road, Wimbledon, that I used to pass on the way to and from school.

  4. I had expected that Lidl UK would have just sent their relevant booklet pages to their US operation for £s to be changed to $s but no. Page 6 of this Lidl UK booklet shows the same kettle but we are denied the use of our own vernacular phrase ‘kit out’.
    Therefore, it appears the Americans probably write their own booklet and have decided to use ‘kit out’.

  5. Maybe they used the phrase precisely because the kettle is kind of an English thing, though that may be assuming they think American consumers would get that little trick.

    BTW, the Economist’s writers use the heck out of “kit.” They use it mainly where an American would use “equipment” or “stuff.”

  6. I’m curious as to how you can live without an electric kettle! I understand you may use a coffee machine, but there are many other uses for boiling water, including making a cup of tea or other hot drink that doesn’t work in a coffee machine, filling a hot water bottle, topping up the water in a saucepan on the stove, adding really hot water to the sink when you’re doing the dishes… I’m an Australian, and it’s not a home without an electric kettle and a fridge.

    1. I think most Americans have old fashioned stove top kettles with a whistle. It does seem odd to me that electric kettles have never caught on there.

      1. I have a hob kettle somewhere. (And I believe calling the top of the cooker the hob is a Britishism in itself. As is calling it a cooker and not a stove.)

        Did occasionally use it where I lived previously if there was a power cut and couldn’t use an electric kettle. I had a gas cooker then. My current house is all electric, doesn’t even have a gas supply, so if the power goes out, no way to heat water.

      2. Lots of Americans use those electric kettles now. Ironically, though my wife is British, I’m the one who bought our first one– in about 2012– since I used them so much when working overseas.

        I don’t think the voltage matters at all for the purpose of this, or any other appliance. Most American houses have 220V connections for their stoves and/or clothes dryers, but we don’t use those connections for any other appliances that I know of.

      3. I have memories of growing up in the late fifties/early sixties and the family having an electric kettle that we never used. We had a whistling kettle. I think there was still a strong disinclination to mix electricity and water at that time, which may have been the reason my mother didn’t like to use an electric kettle. I can’t remember when we switched over to electric kettles.

        Many years later in the eighties I remember a colleague complaining that an elderly relative had ruined an electric kettle by trying to use it on the hob. I wonder if that too was because they didn’t think using a kettle with electricity was safe.

        I find the development of the electric kettle interesting. The early ones looked just like hob kettles and were usually made of metal. The jug shape is now more prevalent – it takes up less space on the work top – and they are usually made of plastic.

        The way they are connected to the mains has changed, too. It used to be that the cord was plugged into a socket on the side of the kettle, on the opposite side to the spout. To pour from the kettle, unless the teapot or whatever was right next to it, meant pulling the plug out of the kettle. Now the socket is under the kettle and the kettle docks with a base which is connected to the mains. You can easily pick up the kettle to separate it from the base.

        The heating element used to be a a loop at the same height as the socket in the back, free standing in the water. If you operated the kettle with too little water, you could damage the element. Now, with the socket under the kettle, the element is built into the bottom of the kettle.

      4. Just went to ao.com, a big online appliance supplier in the UK and under cooking, it listed cookers, not stoves. I’m sure we called them stoves when I was growing up. I don’t know when we changed on that.

        As to hobs, I bought a tub of pasta sauce at the weekend. There were two sets of cooking instructions, one for microwaving, and one for “on the hob”. There used to be a cleaning liquid on sale called Hob Brite but I haven’t seen it on sale for a while and a google search suggests it’s been discontinued, but lots of other stuff on sale labelled as hob cleaner.

      5. I had to look up what old fashioned kettles are called. Unthinkingly, I put stove top kettle into Google, which worked, because that’s what John Lewis and others list them under. Cooker top kettle or hob kettle just doesn’t sound right, although I’d usually call it a hob or cooker.

      6. By nice coincidence, having just posted about hobs, I started doing the (UK cryptic-style) crossword and the first clue I looked at was “One could be painting things like the top of an oven (5)”. The answer was “hobby” because painting is a hobby, and the top of an oven could be described as hobby – like a hob.

      7. Something concerning the low voltage used in comparison to the rest of the world.Unless it has suddenly changed ,110 volts being the norm in the USA.In comparison to the 220/240 volts commonplace in Europe.The higher current required at 110 volts probably overloads the fuses/circuit breakers.

    2. I’ve heard that one of the problems is the low voltage of US electricity mains, about half of what it is in Europe. My kettle is rated at 2kW, and to get a similar wattage in the US would require twice the current. And halving the wattage increases the length of time to boil the water.

      But, I agree. An electric kettle is so useful. If I’m boiling an egg or cooking pasta, filling the kettle, boiling that, and then transferring the recently boiled water into a saucepan on the hob is much quicker.

      And when I get up iin the morning (which I’ve just done), I come downstairs, fill the kettle and switch it on. I then go back upstairs to get dressed and when I come back down the kettle has boiled – and turned itself off, which a hob kettle won’t do. Warm the pot with a dash of water from the kettle, bring the kettle back to the boil and make the tea. (And don’t get me started on the American inability to make tea with boiling water!)

      I had to buy a new kettle beginning of the year and the new one is all glass apart from the lid and base, and it has a blue light in the base when you switch it on. You get a cool light show as the light reflects off of the bubbles as the water boils.

      1. I’ve heard the voltage explanation before, and yet electric kettles are normal here in Canada, even though we have the same electricity as the U.S.

      2. I don’t know why I said 2kW. I just checked and it says 2.5-3kW, 220-240V, The higher the local mains voltage, the higher the wattage.

      3. I just checked the spec for one US kettle and it runs on 120V.
        An appliance designer can achieve any wattage desired, regardless of local voltage.
        Watts = Volts x Amps so, by manufacturing an element with low resistance, more current will flow and the high Wattage will be reached.
        e.g. 120V x 23A = 2760W. However, 23A would require a thicker flex than we in the UK are used to seeing.

      4. Yes, but what’s the equivalent for a US 120V circuit? What is their highest fuse rating?

        Any Americans reading this who have an electrical kettle, what voltage do you run it at, and what’s the wattage?

      5. Incidentally, I worked for the electricity supply industry in the UK for thirty years and a story I remember hearing in the seventies was about the use of electric kettles.
        A building I worked at did not have a coin-operated drinks machine so some offices had clubbed together and bought an electric kettle to provide drinks during the day. I wasn’t working there at the time but I’m told that the office management took exception to the use of electric kettles. They sent round a memo to the effect that the building wiring was not up to electric kettle use.

        This was to a building full of electricity experts. The general response was that if the building wasn’t wired to British Standard whatever, it jolly well ought to be.

      6. 120V and 1500 W. I haven’t checked, but I imagine the circuit is 20 amp, as most of them are. At the most, it would be 30 amp.

        Perhaps these kettles are more efficient now, or perhaps it takes longer to boil at 120v.

      7. All Australian awards – the minimum pay and conditions for a job type – specify that boiling water must be provided. In fact, most workplaces go further and supply tea, coffee, milk and sugar, and sometimes even fancy coffee machines; but you won’t find a workplace where there isn’t at least an electric kettle.

      8. My guess is it would take twice as long.

        I once did the calculation on how long it would take to bring a litre of water to the boil assuming water from the tap was at about 20C and using the rating of the kettle. The numbers agreed fairly well with how long it actually took.

        13A is, I think, the maximum rating of electricity sockets in the UK. Cookers are connected on a different circuit, not plugged in but hard-wired.

      1. The Zip hot/filtered water taps have been a standard fixture in Australian offices for decades.

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