rhubarb rhubarb

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English[edit]

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Alternative forms[edit]

Etymology[edit]

Chosen as a word for producing indistinct background noise because it contains no very sharp or recognisable phonemes. Yielded sense 3 of rhubarb.

Noun[edit]

rhubarb rhubarb (uncountable)

  1. (chiefly UK, film) Background noise of several "conversations," none of which is decipherable since all the actors are actually just repeating the word rhubarb, or other words with similar attributes.
    • 1981: Tony Harrison, The Rhubarbarians I in collection Continuous: 50 sonnets from 'The School of Eloquence' . Rex Collings, London (1981)
      Those glottals glugged like poured pop, each /rebarbative syllable, remembrancer, raise /‘mob' rhubarb-rhubarb to a tribune's speech /crossing the crackle as the hayracks blaze...
    • 1983: Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn, Victory Celebrations
      (stage direction) They all rise and drink. Rhubarb, rhubarb...To convey the next stage of To convey the next stage of general inebriation, the remarks that follow are spoken in a sing-song.
    • 1995: Sandra M. Gilbert, Susan Gubar, Masterpiece Theatre: An Academic Melodrama
      (film stage direction) Pan to a shot of the crowd of humanists surging forward and murmuring "Rhubarb, rhubarb".
  2. (chiefly UK, pejorative) Speech which is undecipherable to the listener because it is in a language he or she does not understand; mumbo jumbo.
    • 1997: Stephen R L Clark, Animals and Their Moral Standing
      Human beings and human speech are historical inventions as well: our actual experience for long enough was of ‘ourselves', the local tribes of people, dogs and horses, and of the ‘others', theria (wild beasts) and barbaroi (who make noises that only vaguely sound like speech, as "rhubarb, rhubarb").
    • 1998: Richard Wallace, Wynne Williams, The Three Worlds of Paul of Tarsus
      ‘Barbarians' who made noises which sounded like ‘rhubarb-rhubarb' to Greeks who could not (and did not want to) understand them.
    • 2005: Robert Leslie Fielding, Other People Other Worlds: The Collected Short Stories of Robert Leslie Fielding
      I heard my name amongst so much mumbo jumbo. “Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb, Robert.”
  3. (chiefly UK) Blah blah; etc, etc.
    • 1998: Brigid Lowry, Guitar Highway Rose
      Not allowed to blah blah blah rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb. Just what I don't need when I'm feeling kind of seedy.
    • 2001: Sheila Rowbotham, Promise of a Dream: Remembering the Sixties
      Judith recruited me as the voice of the grass roots. I said rhubarb, rhubarb to oblige her, but I felt like a charlatan. I had mobilized out of a genuine sense of outrage at Cathy's treatment, but the demand to enter the Oxford Union was another matter.
    • 2005: Judith Woolf, Writing About Literature: Essay and Translation Skills for University Students of English and foreign literature.
      All tutors and examiners are familiar with the essay which begins, in effect, 'All the poets of the seventeenth century said, "Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb," and in this Marvell was no exception.'

See also[edit]