whole new ball game/ball of wax, a

whole new ball game/ball of wax, a

An entirely changed situation. The first, an Americanism originating about 1970, applied the idea of a new sport with different rules to changed circumstances in almost any situation: for example, “If this were to happen, some official of our government would no doubt announce that we were in a ‘whole new ballgame,’ which would mean that none of the policies or promises made in the past were binding any longer” (New Yorker, 1971). It is also put as a whole other ball game. The second phrase, which has exactly the same meaning, may, it has been suggested, come from a seventeenth-century English legal practice whereby land was divided among several heirs. Wax was used to cover small pieces of paper on which portions of land were identified; each was rolled into a ball, and the balls were drawn from a hat by the heirs in order of precedence (the eldest first, the youngest last). Whether or not this was the source, “the whole ball of wax” today also means all the elements of a plan, situation, or action, as well as all related elements. Thus one might say, “He sold her his house, his boat, his car—the whole ball of wax.”
See also: ball, game, new, of, whole