Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Mon Oct 20 15:49:44 UTC 2008

OED lays a long and twisty trail (and circular, if one takes the
wrong branch).  It gives us Mab[el], perhaps.  And mop also, perhaps.

mob cap [< MOB n.1 + CAP n.1
   Dutch mop and mopmuts woman's bonnet (< moppen to wrap around,
cover up + muts: see MUTCH n.) are probably unrelated.]

Then mob n.1 [Variant of MAB n.1; perhaps compare earlier MOBLE v.
   With sense 3, compare later MOB CAP n.]

Which can mean:
1. A wench, a slattern; a promiscuous woman; a prostitute. Obs.
2. A loose informal garment for a woman; a dishabille. Also mob-dress. Obs.

Then mab n.1 [Origin uncertain; perhaps < the female forename Mab,
shortened in Middle English < Mabel (originally with short a) <
Amabel. Compare MAB v., and the later variant MOB n.1; also MABBLE v., MOBLE v.
   Compare also:
   1599 SHAKESPEARE Romeo & Juliet I. iv. 90 That very Mab
that..bakes the Elklocks in foule sluttish haires.
   For a summary of (ultimately unconvincing) suggestions which have
frequently been made of a Celtic etymology for this use, sometimes
drawing attention also to quot. 1557-8 at sense 1, see the Arden
Shakespeare edition (ed. B. Gibbons, 1980) 109; compare also Eng.
Dial. Dict. s.v. Mab led.
   For sense 2 'a mop' in N.E.D. (1904) s.v. Mab sb. see pitch mab n.
at PITCH n.1 Compounds 2.]

Which means
1. A slattern; a promiscuous woman. [also Obs.]


At 10/20/2008 12:24 AM, Your Name wrote:
>Does anyone have any info about the origin of "mobcap"?  I'd always  assumed
>it was an ellision (is that the word I want?) of "mopcap," which is  harder to
>say.  It would make sense - you need to get long hair out of your  face and
>off your neck while mopping, which is hot, sweaty work; and with wet,  dirty
>hands, you can't brush your hair out of your face.  (Thank God
>I'm  too lazy to
>do much mopping now; but as a kid I had to do a fair  amount.)   In my day we
>held it back and up with a farmer's  handkerchief (on which no farmer had ever
>laid a finger; that's just what they  called that style).  But bundling it up
>under a full cloth cap would also  make sense.
>However, I heard someone refer to "mobcap" as being a derivative of "maid's
>cap."  And, which draws from multiple sources, says it may
>come from "Mabel's cap."
>It's a moot question, as my hair is quite short now and I have no need for
>any hair restraint on the rare occasions I do bring myself to wield a mop.
>But I'm just curious as to where it came from.
>Our greatest hopes and our worst fears are  seldom realized.
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