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rhubarb
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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

rhubarb

PRONUNCIATION:
(ROO-bahrb)

MEANING:
noun: A heated dispute; brawl.

ETYMOLOGY:
The origin of the plant name rhubarb is from Greek rha (perhaps from Rha, an ancient name of the river Volga on whose bank rhubarb was grown) + barbaros (foreign), but why the word developed this slang sense is unknown. We do know that this usage was popularized in baseball. The Oxford English Dictionary has the first citation from 1943:
"Mr 'Red' Barber,.. who has been announcing the games of the Brooklyn Dodgers, has used the term 'rhubarb' to describe an argument, or a mix-up, on the field of play." (NY Herald Tribune)
It's unconfirmed whether the word has any connection with hey rube, the term for a circus brawl, or its theatrical use: when the noise of background conversation is to be simulated, a group of actors is asked to repeat the word rhubarb.

USAGE:
"People should get their domestic rhubarbs, verbal fisticuffs, and emotional jugular-snatching completely out of the way before they show up for a house tour."
Richard Ford; Independence Day; Alfred A. Knopf; 1995.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
A belief which leaves no place for doubt is not a belief; it is a superstition. -Jose Bergamin, author (1895-1983)

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