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Grub

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Grub

Postby Dr. Goodword » Mon Mar 24, 2014 10:35 pm

• grub •


Pronunciation: grêb • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)

Meaning: 1. (Western US Slang) Plain food, 'eats', 'vittles' (= victuals). 2. The thick white larva of some insects that spends its life digging through the soil.

Notes: We don't actually advocate using today's word in its first meaning: it is substandard slang originating in the speech of the American cowboy. On a cattle drive, grub was simple but hot, served up around the chuck wagon, which carried the provisions for the drive. The chuck wagon's name probably didn't come from the fact that you were apt to 'chuck up' the food it provided, or because you were likely to get a chuck steak there, but more likely because it was where biscuits, called "chuck" on board ships of the time, were prepared.

In Play: Should you ever play cowboy, you wouldn't want to use words like cuisine, comestibles, or even food. For that situation, put this word to work, "That was some grub you rustled up for us tonight, Cookie; where did you dig it up?" Why grub has to be 'rustled up' is anyone's guess; that is just the way it was on the prairie. A grub stake? you ask. That was a Gold Rush term: the money a miner needed for grub until he struck gold. It came with the understanding that the giver would share in the profits from any gold discovered.

Word History: Speaking of grub, some of the best is the cured salmon known as gravlax, from Swedish grava "to bury" + lax "lox", named for the original process of curing it in the ground. The same root that produced grava, turned up in Old English grybban "to dig", which ultimately became grub. Because pigs and other animals usually grub for food, the word grub also became cowboy slang meaning "food". (There also may have been little difference between what the animals dug up and what the chuck wagon provided.) In Middle Dutch the same root emerged as groeve "ditch," which was borrowed by English as groove. The Old English word for "ditch" was graef, which today is grave. (We don't know where David Ryan of Sweet Valley, Pennsylvania, dug up today's terms of the cowboy argot, but we hope he keeps grubbing for more.)
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Re: Grub

Postby Pattie » Tue Mar 25, 2014 5:35 am

So many lovely other uses for this word: we in Australia use the term 'grub' to describe a truly objectionable character (often applied to politicians, especially by each other). And, of course, many folk happily grub about in their gardens at weekends, which usually results in grubby hands. And heaven forfend that one would ever listen to, let alone tell, a grubby joke!
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Re: Grub

Postby tapoensgen » Tue Mar 25, 2014 5:55 am

Actually, grub is by no means Cowboy slang word only. It is commonly used in Britain to describe basic food, not necessarily bad. For example "pub grub" for the sort of basic fare you might be served in pubs (no longer so basic these days). One might also hear frequently people referring to hearty and tasty food as "proper grub". I would hazard a guess that the word actually originated in Britain and somehow found its way into Cowboy slang.
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Re: Grub

Postby LukeJavan8 » Tue Mar 25, 2014 12:35 pm

good grubbin, Pattie and tapo,
interesting uses never heard before on my part.
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Re: Grub

Postby Philip Hudson » Wed Mar 26, 2014 3:11 am

Not to neglect the other definition of the word grub, I offer the following. Not all grub insects are of the ground digging kind. In New Guinea, there are grubs that live in rotted logs. The natives grub out these grubs and make grub out of them. They are considered a delicacy.
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Re: Grub

Postby Dr. Goodword » Wed Mar 26, 2014 9:09 am

I must apologize to all of you and thank tapoensgen for the suggestion that this word originated in England. I had jumped to the same conclusion that most Americans jump to, but when I checked the OED, I found that tapoensgen was right.

Here is my revision of the Notes for Good Word grub for the permanent GW dictionary and archive.

-------------------------------------------------------------

Notes: We don't actually advocate using today's word in its first meaning. It is a slang word originating in Britain in the first half of the 17th century—not the speech of the American cowboy. The cowboy is who Americans most closely associate it with. On a cattle drive, grub was simple but hot, served up around the chuck wagon, which carried the provisions for the drive. The chuck wagon's name probably didn't come from the fact that you were apt to 'chuck up' the food it provided, or because you were likely to get a chuck steak there, but more likely because it was where biscuits, called "chuck" on board ships of the time, were prepared.
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Re: Grub

Postby bamaboy56 » Wed Apr 02, 2014 1:35 am

Interestingly, I just checked my Facebook page today and had received a posting from my sister. She posted a picture of some meal she had made with the caption "Getting ready to grub down!" I guess as opposed to "chow down", which is probably what I would have said.
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