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definition of the word rhubarb

by the Wiktionnary

Middle English, rubarbe, from Old French and Late Latin reubarbarum perhaps the  (River Volga) +  (barbarian)

Rhubarb stalks

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Singular
rhubarb

Plural
countable and uncountable; rhubarbs

rhubarb (countable and uncountable; plural rhubarbs)

  1. Any plant of the genus Rheum, especially R. rharbarbarum, having large leaves and long green or reddish acidic leafstalks, that are edible, in particular when cooked (although the leaves are mildly poisonous).
    • 1716: J. (John) Mortimer, The Whole Art of Husbandry: Or, the Way of Managing and Improving of Land.
      Rhubarb is of several sorts, which are raised all by Seed, or by parting of the Tops.
    • 2006: Cappy Hall Rearick, Simply Southern Ease: More Humor, Insights and Fun from a Good Old Southern Gal
      "Are you talking homemade rhubarb pie from scratch, with you rolling out the dough instead of using a ready-made pie crust."
    • 2006: L M Dougherty, The Concertmaster: Lure of the Stringed Siren
      I'm thinking about planting a row of rhubarb this year. What do you think? You always used to love my rhubarb bread."
  2. The dried rhizome and roots of R. palmatum or R. officinale, from China, used as a laxative and purgative.
    • 1744: Alexander Hamilton, A New Account of the East Indies: Giving an Exact and Copious Description of the Situation, Product, Manufactures, Laws, Customs, Religion, Trade, &c. of all the Countries and Islands, which lie between the Cape of Good Hope, and the Island of Japon...In Two Volumes. Volume I. [full title stretches to 108 words]
      On the Mountains of Zensi, near the famous Wall that divides China from Tartary, grows abundance of that useful and valuable Root Rhubarb, whoes Use is so well known in Europe.
    • 2006:Bharat B Aggarwall, Shishir Shishodia (editors), Resveratrol in Health And Disease
      Isolation and characterization of stilbene glucosides from Chinese rhubarb.
    • 2006: John Mann, Murder, Magic and Medicine
      Long before this, the Emperor Shennung (c2700 BC) was recommending the use of rhubarb.
  3. A word repeated softly to emulate background conversation. (see rhubarb rhubarb).
    • 1992:John Matthias, Reading Old Friends: Essays, Reviews, and Poems on Poetics, 1975-1990
      What he stuffed into the mouths of those National Theatre actors, then, was something intended to open their mouths, slow down their delivery, and make them hear and speak each word as a barbed rebarbative thing of rhubarb syllables.
    • 1992: Brenda Murphy, Tennessee Williams and Elia Kazan: A Collaboration in the Theatre
      He also disapproved of the way the “Winchell bit” was being delivered, noting that it didn't come across as a news broadcast because it was lost in “the rhubarb” of the fiesta and that the news commentator did not have the proper air of mystery about him.
    • 2002: Oliver Taplin, Greek Tragedy in Action
      Such business...is often introduced in some kind of ‘dumb show', either in silence or accompanied by music or indecipherable stage noise (‘rhubarb', etc.).
  4. An excited, angry exchange of words, especially at a sporting event.
    • 1993: Thomas G Aylesworth, Kids' World Almanac of Baseball
      When the pitcher, catcher and umpire get into an argument, baseball anouncers call it a rhubarb. The word comes from a sound effects technique used in early radio dramas.
    • 2003: The Columbian, September 15, 2003
    • "Bonds, who had been watching the game on television earlier, sprung out of the dugout for an animated rhubarb."
    • 2006: David Block, Baseball Before We Knew It: A Search for the Roots of the Game
      Two days later, the ball play resulted in a rhubarb: "The day was so bad and so much labor going on, that we had no exercise, but some ball play — at which some dispute arose among the officers, but was quelled without rising high".
    • 2006: Mary Ann Meyers, Art, Education, & African-American Culture: Albert Barnes and the Science of Philanthropy
      Speaking by telephone from his desert home near Palm Springs, California, he told a reporter in Philadelphia: "I don't want to be around when there's a rhubarb going on.
  5. (baseball) A brawl.
    • 1992: Dom Forker, Big League Baseball Puzzlers
      The umpire will call the runner out, but it will probably create a rhubarb. Rule 7.08 c. At least it did the day umpire Beans Reardon called Charlie Pick of the Cubs out on the play...when the Bruin outfielder responded too physically, Reardon “punched him out.”
    • 1997: James Reston, Collision at Home Plate: The Lives of Pete Rose and Bart Giamatti
      He got into a rhubarb with Elmo Plaskett, the catcher from the other team. Plaskett hauled off and hit Bristol in the face with his catcher's mask.
    • 2005: Larry Dierker, This Ain't Brain Surgery: How to Win the Pennant Without Losing Your Mind
      “I'm the umpire you threw on the ground at Chatsworth back when you were in high school.”...Arguing with umpires is still a part of the attraction in baseball. A good rhubarb offers just a trace of the outrageous behavior that has vaulted the World Wrestling Entertainment into prominence in recent years.
    • 2006: Timothy J. Gay, Tris Speaker: The Rough-And-Tumble Life of a Baseball Legend
      Spoke relished confrontations with umpires, never backing down from a rhubarb. Teammates marveled at his capacity to yell so hard his face would turn blue.

  1. Definition three is attributed to the practice by Charles Kean's theatre company c1852 at Princess Theatre, London of actors supposed to be talking together inaudibly, repetitively saying the word rhubarb, which was chosen because it does not have any harsh-sounding consonants or clear vowels. The usage has since broadened as noted at rhubarb rhubarb.
  2. Definition four is attributed to baseball commentator Red Barber c1940. He claimed to have based the usage on the practice in "early radio dramas" (presumably in the US c1930) of actors repetitively voicing "rhubarb". However, unlike the UK usage, he felt the practice applied to muttering by an angry mob, so applied the word to arguments on the baseball field where he could not distinguish the words.
  3. Definition five appears to have developed by extension from definition 4, since it has no relevance to the original stage usage on either continent.


Definition from Wiktionary
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