"bamboo", some kind of drink?

Victor Steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Sat Mar 3 08:45:05 UTC 2012

There is, however, an actual antedating--and it can be improved further.
(Travel from December 1733 and 1734)

A New Voyage to Georgia: By a Young Gentleman. Giving an Account of His
Travels to South Carolina, and Part of North Carolina. By [?]. 2nd
Edition. London: 1737
pp. 14-5
> We came at last to one /Lewis/'s, about twelve Miles from his House,
> and about fifteen Miles from /George/ Town in /Winneaw :/ it being a
> small Tavern we called for some Punch ; but he had nothing to drink
> but a little Bumboe, which is Rum, Sugar, and Water, and some Hominy
> and Milk, and Potatoes. Hominy is a sort of a Meal much resembling our
> Oat-meal in /England/, made of their /Indian/ Corn : we stayed there
> till three in the Afternoon, when we mounted our Horses and reached
> /George/ Fort the same Night.

Another only a year later. (Travels in 1730-1735)

Travels into the Inland Parts of Africa: Containing a Description of the
of the Several Nations for the Space of Six Hundred Miles up the River
Gambia; their Trade, Habits, Customs, Languages, Manners, Religion and
Government; the Power, Disposition and Characters of Some Negro Princes;
with a Particular Account of Job Ben Solomon, a Pholey, who was in
England in the Year 1733, and Known by the Name of the African. By
Francis Moore. 2nd Edition. London: 1738
May 1735. pp. 172-3
> On the 31, about Noon, died one of our Ship-Mates, Mr. /James Ellis/,
> who was ill when we left /Gambia/, but died a Martyr to Rum ; for when
> he was not able to lift a Mug to his Mouth, he made shift to suck it
> thro' a Pipe, and died with a Pipe and a Mug full of Bumbo close to
> his Pillow.

[Note that Bumbo is also a reference to alligators only a few pages later.]

There seems to be one earlier mention of Bomboe--published in 1730, but
recorded from a 1701 trial ... of Captain William Kidd.

A Complete Collection Of State-Trials And Proceedings Upon High-Treason,
and Other Crimes and Misdemeanours; From the Reign of King Richard II.
To the End of the Reign of King George I. Volume 5. 2nd Edition. London:
The Trial of William Kidd, Nicholas Churchill, James Howe, Robert
Lamley, William Jenkins, Gabriel Loffe, Hugh Parrot, Richard Barlicorn,
Abel Owens, and Darby Mullins, for Piracy and Robbery, on a Ship called
the Quedagh Merchant.  166. 1 W. III. 1701.  p. 303/1
> Mr. Coniers: What was it that Captain Kidd said ?
> Bradingham: He assured them it was no such thing. And afterwards went
> aboard with them and swore to be true to them; and he took a Cup of
> Bomboe, and swore to be true to them, and assist them ; and he
> assisted this Captain /Culleford/ with Guns, and an Anchor, to fit him
> to Sea again.

Furthermore, "Bamboo" or "Bamboe" was the word for sugar cane in the
West Indies, according to Boyer's English/French dictionary of 1729.
Since the connection between rum, sugar and sugar cane is nontrivial, it
stands to reason that there might have been at least folk etymology
connecting the drink with rum and sugar (and other things, perhaps) to
the name for the sugar cane.

There is also an odd mention of "Bamboo (cold)" among the provisions at
a ceremonial dinner at one of the coronations in the 1727 "Complete
Account of Ceremonies Observed in the Coronations of the Kings and
Queens of England" ( http://goo.gl/ngxtr ). This likely refers to bamboo
shoots, perhaps similar to the pickle preparation outlined in a 1734
cookbook (which, however, uses elder, as Indian bamboo would have been
unavailable in England-- http://goo.gl/mw4OI ). Another book identifies
one type of sugar cane as "Bambu or Bamboe" but also gives the "Indian"
name as "Sacar Mambu". ( http://goo.gl/ylLSF 1749)

The OED does not give "sugar cane" as one of the definitions for bamboo,
but it probably should. In fact, the latter source might be of interest,
as "mambu" is the earliest listed example for "bamboo" in the OED and
the etymology is unclear. Now, did the Dutch, the Portuguese or the
Spanish bring it from Indonesia to the West Indies or vice versa? I have
no idea. Furthermore, looking at all the pre-1750 uses bamboo (and
variations) suggests that it represented several distinct objects: 1)
the plant proper ( http://goo.gl/rT3kA ) and its stem (
http://goo.gl/ksu03 ; http://goo.gl/uhRFK ; http://goo.gl/sbdKj ;
http://goo.gl/zDqeS ); 2) harvested stems/sticks used as construction
material for housing or other purposes ( http://goo.gl/40UWv ;
http://goo.gl/MOUm1 ; http://goo.gl/43NKf ); 3) bamboo canes and
switches used as instrument for punishment or other purposes (
http://goo.gl/oEDFu ; http://goo.gl/C9hZ5 ; http://goo.gl/1rA87 ;
http://goo.gl/hLzBd ), as well as split bamboo canes for lashes (
http://goo.gl/GiuSg ); 4) bamboo canes used as walking sticks or
carrying rails ( http://goo.gl/Mqt2M ); 5) bamboo-grass mats used for
sitting on ( http://goo.gl/Fu9DP ); 6) sugar cane grown or harvested
specifically in the West Indies; 7) a type of vine that resembled the
bamboo plant or possibly a creeping species of the same (
http://goo.gl/Spp35 ); 8) bamboo shoots used as comestibles,
particularly as pickles in India (and, apparently, in Jamaica!--
http://goo.gl/ysZd7 ); 9) bamboo flute ( http://goo.gl/hfgMZ ;
http://goo.gl/9BdBx ); 10) a unit of measurement in India and Indonesia
( http://goo.gl/RUZcH ; http://goo.gl/KTJHa ; http://goo.gl/qvGZ4 ); 11)
grass, leaves, split pieces or chunks of bamboo used for construction of
hats, curtains or mattresses ( http://goo.gl/EU40S ). Many of these
appear with Bamboo merely as a modifier (as in Bamboo-Cane), but the
word bamboo also appears alone in each instance. Only the first three of
these are mentioned in the OED definition--and this is just from books
published prior to 1750 (with a couple of later stragglers).


PS. An interesting passage that mentions a number of things, including
"hocus-pocus" in a sense that I cannot find in the OED specifically
(although it is very close to most of the definitions). Also a good
interdating of "gormandize".

Collection of Voyages and Travels: Some Now First Printed from Original
Manuscripts, Others Translated out of Foreign Languages, and Now First
Published in English. To Which Are Added Some Few That Have Formerly
Appeard in English, but Do Now for Their Excellency and Scarceness
Deserve to Be Reprinted. Collected by Awnsham Churchill. Volume 6.
London: 1745 [?]
A Description of the Kingdom of Tonqueen. By Samuel Baron. Chapter 8. On
the Visits and Pastimes of the Tonqueenese. p. 14/1
> But their grand pastime is their new-year's feast, which commonly
> happens about the 25th of /January, /and is kept by some thirty days;
> for then, besides dancing and the recreations aforesaid, all their
> other sorts of games, as playing at football, swinging on an engine
> erected of bamboo's, at most corners of the streets, tricks of bodily
> activity, and a kind of hocus-pocus, are brought on the stage, to
> increase merriment ; neither are they behind-hand to prepare their
> feasts and banquets plentiful and large, striving to outdo each other
> therein, for the space of three or four days, according to their
> ability ;//and as this is indeed the time to gormandize and debauch to
> excess, so he is accounted the most miserable wretch that doth not
> provide to welcome his friends and acquaintance, tho' by so doing he
> is certain to beg the rest of that year for his livelihood.

On 3/3/2012 1:39 AM, Victor Steinbok wrote:
> Interestingly, this is not the only contemporary source that resorts
> to such liquor. I don't know the book, but perhaps much of it is
> authentic--in which case, it may serve as an antedating (if you can
> figure out the exact dates from the book itself--the electronic copy
> is missing much f the information).

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