Word of the Day: cabbage
Cabbage (verb) KAB-ij
“When these ruffians were in a relatively mild mood they were content to chase us off the diamond, but when their glands were flowing freely they also cabbaged our bats, balls and gloves.” — H. L. Mencken, Happy Days, 1940
“More and more people are trying to get their ‘news’ free from online sources, unreliable as some of these fly-by-night wanna-bes are. In truth, the information is usually cabbaged from the website (or the print edition) of the local paper.” — Kim Poindexter, The Tahlequah (Oklahoma) Daily Press, 24 Aug. 2015
Did You Know?
Does the “filching” meaning of cabbage bring to mind an image of thieves sneaking out of farm fields with armloads of pilfered produce? If so, you’re in for a surprise. Today’s featured word has nothing to do with the leafy vegetable. It originally referred to the practice among tailors of pocketing part of the cloth given to them to make garments. The verb was cut from the same cloth as an older British noun cabbage, which meant “pieces of cloth left in cutting out garments and traditionally kept by tailors as perquisites.” Both of those ethically questionable cabbages probably derived from cabas, the Middle French word for “cheating or theft.” The cabbage found in coleslaw, on the other hand, comes from Middle English caboche, which meant “head.”
Today’s word is a common word. The definition supplied by M-W is not. Besides the term for the vegetable, it also means to steal, pilfer, or filch.
To me, it’s an obviously a British usage of the word though the examples supplied come from American sources. I submit, that if any ordinary American from all classes, educations, or social standings would never associate the word ‘Cabbage’ to mean steal, etc.
In the U.S., we use the term in two ways. One, the vegetable used to make coleslaw. The second is a slang term for money or cash. i.e. “Hey there, how much cabbage was in the take last night?” I haven’t heard it a lot lately, I must admit. I usually hear it older movies, and commonly used between gangsters, hookers, or even in shop owners chatting over coffee.
I don’t know anyone in my social circles who would use the term to steal. Do you?
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I love learning the different contexts of these words of the day. Do you? Please share your comments. I’m sure we would all like to read them.
Have a great day.