Victor aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Mon Jul 27 20:05:08 UTC 2009

A friend has just posted a mini-rant complaining about strawberries
being completely superfluous to a "rhubard pie". In fact, he wrote
"rhubard" three times in the space of 37 words (including "Arrgh!"). I
missed it upon first reading. Then someone else commented on the
spelling. A simple search gets 37000 raw ghits for "rhubard", including
recipes, seed catalog listings (for both "rhubard" and "rhubard chard"),
and even corporate names (e.g., "Rhubard Productions").

Some might just be typos:

 >>Got Rhubard? Rhubarb Apple Bake...

Here's one odd entry:

 >>The vagina </Sex-Dictionary/vagina> . See vagina
</Sex-Dictionary/vagina> for synonyms.
 >>QUOTE: The Joker (Jack Nicholson) to Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton)
in Batman (1989): ' Never rub </Sex-Dictionary/rub> another man's rhubarb.'

Note that the quotation has "rhubarb" but the entry is for "rhubard".

The Urban Dictionary has the same reference, but it's hidden
(cross-listed under "Whispering Eye", but with no main entry of its own).

The two quotations for slogans under "Gazi" (in Urban Dictionary) also
have obvious (to me) sexual connotation. (Only the first one has
"rhubard", but I kept the second because it makes the euphemism more
 >>"Rhubard to Britain's Custard"
 >>"The World was your oyster: It's ours now."

There are a number of Google Books hits as well, and a recent one seems
to have panned out:
 >>Vice-verser: the ramblings, ravings & ribaldry of Rhubard (1998)

Another title is a possibility, but there is no text available, so I
can't verify if this was just a typo in Google.

 >>Adam's garden: the cultivation of vegetables, tomatoes, rhubard and
small fruit By L. E. Fox (1925)

But the more interesting one is from 1749 with an unquestionable
spelling "rhubard":

The Universal Magazine [Printed for John Hinton, at the King's-Arms in
St. Paul's Church-Yard, London]; Volume IV, February 1749, p. 77
 >>When you once certain that the distemper is amongst your cattle, take
a quarter of an ounce of the very best _rhubard_, boil it half a quarter
of an hour in a small pipkin of water, strain it, and when lukewarm,
give this quantity to each ox or cow, throwing the _rhubard_ away, as
being then of no farther use. ... After the first two or three days
illness, you may give, instead of the _rhubarb_, or even if you continue
the _rhubard_, allowing a reasonable space between a small cup of rape
oil, lukewarm, for two or three days together : or every other day, you
may give a small quantity of honey, oil, and red wine, boiled together,
after suffering it to stand till it is but blood-warm. ... The intent of
giving _rhubard_, is in order to cleanse the body, and to prevent an
inflammatory scowering; the oil is used for the same purpose, and to
secure the intestines from excoriation ...

Note, in particular, that one instance is of "rhubarb" and the rest of
"rhubard". [Again, I kept more than the minimal amount of text because
others may find parts of it of interest.]

Another hit is also from 1749.

A Treatise on Foreign Vegetables; By Ralph Thicknesse; [London, 1749], p.47:
 >>Artic. XV. Of _Rhubarb_
 >>Some Botanists confound the _Rhubard_ of the Moderns with the
Rhapontick of the Ancient Greeks; but fro mthe Description of Rhapontick
given by Dioscorides under the Name of [] or [], their Difference is
evident; this appearing to have been the same with the Rhapontick of
Prosper Alpinus. // Rhabarbarum, Off. Rhabarbarum verum, seu Sinense.
The officinal or true _China-Rhubard_ is brought to us in thick Pieces
of unequal Magnitudes, being sometimes four, five, or six Inches long,
and three or four Inches thick, of a yellow or brownish Colour on the
outside, but marbled or variegated like a Nutmeg within with
Saffron-Colour and yellow, and of a light, fungous Texture.

The latter piece is particularly interesting because the section title
includes "Rhubarb", but the text is all "rhubard" _and_ it contains the
Latin name with a -b-, so, logically, one should have expected an easy
"rhubarb" derivative.

Whatever else one may say about it, the "misspelling" is neither purely
American nor British, so the origin might be interesting. My friend is
from Central PA, spent over 20 years as an MIT student and now resides
in NH.

Another interesting bit on rhubarb. The Baltic names for it are
variations on the German Rhabarber (+/- h, a/e, etc), which, in itself,
is clearly derived from the Latin name Rheum rhabarbarum (US Wiki claims
that's rha+barbarum, with rha related to Volga). On the other hand, the
Russian name (and perhaps more wide Slavic equivalent) is "reven'". In
my naive IE, this seems to be related to Rheum. But that's just pure


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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