Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Kale for Nerds, or:
Return of the NEEP!

Opa! It is my deepest pleasure to announce that  kale [kail], n.  was the Oxford English Dictionary Word of the Day last Tuesday, March 22, in the Year of Our Lord 2011. This delightfully stunning news comes through the wires to South America from our WV correspondent in New York, Mr. Cardoon O'Chickory, who you may recall provided us with our last big break from the OED, that venerable treasure trove of etymological lore, back in January, 2009 when the pale, mild neep climbed to its finest moment as Word of the Day.

Mr. O'Chickory (really just Chickory, but I like to add the O' as a little shamrock in his cap) writes:

Hi katrina, look at this! the OED comes up trumps again. I am going to start using the phrase "*to give one his kale through the reek"* from now on.

Note also that we come full circle with: *kale-turnip n. = kohlrabi*

I don't even know what that means. But it seems deeply pregnant, no? 

Too excited for words, I had to wait an entire week to process this, yes, deeply pregnant entry.

As mentioned above, it turns out that kale derives from cole, which is related to the German kohl for cabbage (all are from the Brassica family), and kohlrabi being a kind of German turnip, also known as kale-turnip, this, as our perspicacious correspondent points out, brings us full circle to NEEP, our most cherished word for the common turnip.

I want to know all about sea kale, keel to be found wild on Maritime rocks, all that gigantic colewort growing in kitchen gardens, and Scottish kale soup served with moldy bread and sour ale. The Scots seem to have been crazy about kale. You could give someone "his kale through the reek," really let 'em have it in olde timey Scotland (undoubtedly the best kale phrase of them all). But if I'm all about getting my kale in the good ol' U.S. of A., then that green's gonna go cha-ching like cheddar, like scrilla, and "You will get 111% on your kale in this fun-fest" called America, the promise goes.

For those of you vegetable nerds without proper access to the OED, I am pasting in the highlights. All ye who can gaine entrye to the OED, click here.

kale | kail, n.

Pronunciation:  /keɪl/ Sc./kel/
Forms:  α. ME cal, ME–18 cale, (ME–15 Sc. cail (OE, 15 call, 16 cayle), ME, 17– kale, (15–16 Sc. kaill), 16– Sc. kail. β. ME kelle, 15 kel, 15–16 kele, keel(e, 16 (Sc.) keil, 16–18 keal(e, 17 kell.
Etymology:  Northern form of cole n.1, q.v. The normal northern English spelling was cale (now rare), the Scots kaill, kail; the latter still common in Scots writers or with reference to Scotland, though kale is more frequent in general use. The β-forms are mainly southern spellings indicating the narrow Northern vowel.


 a. A generic name for various edible plants of the genus Brassica; cole, colewort, cabbage; spec. the variety with wrinkled leaves not forming a compact head ( B. oleracea acephala), borecole.

1699    M. Lister Journey to Paris (new ed.) 150   The Keel is to be found wild upon the Maritime Rocks. 

1814    Scott Waverley I. viii. 104   Gardens, or yards...stored with gigantic plants of kale or colewort. 

1861    G. H. Kingsley in F. Galton Vac. Tourists & Trav. 1860 148   When times were tolerably quiet, they...cultivated their oats and kail in peace.

b. With qualifying word: curled kale, curly kale, †frizzled kale, German kale, or green kale, the ordinary borecole, with green leaves, very much curled; †great kale, lang kale, Scotch kale, a variety of borecole with less wrinkled leaves, of a purplish colour; wild kale, Colewort. Also corn-kale, wild kale, Field-Mustard ( Sinapis arvensis); Indian kale (see quot. 1890). See also bow-kail n., , sea-kale n.field kale: see the first element. 


1673    D. Wedderburn Vocab. 18 (Jam.)   Brassica, great kail, unlocked. Brassica capitata alba, white locked kail. Brassica crispa, frizzled or curled kail. Brassica minor, smaller kail. 

1731–59    P. Miller Gardeners Dict. (ed. 7) ,   Brassica Siberica, Siberian Borecole, called by some Scotch Kale.


 a. Broth in which Scotch kale or cabbage forms a principal ingredient; hence Sc.water-kale, broth made without meat or fat. Broth or soup made with various kinds of vegetables.

a1480    Burlesque in Rel. Ant. I. 85   Ther whas rostyd bakon, moullyde brede, nw soure alle, Whettestons and fyre~brondys choppyde in kelle.

1642    Milton Apol. Smectymnuus in Wks. (1851) III. 277   When he brings in the messe with Keale, Beef, and Brewesse, what stomach in England could forbeare to call for flanks and briskets?

1816    Scott Black Dwarf i, in Tales of my Landlord 1st Ser. I. 31,   I will be back here to my kail against ane o'clock.
1858    E. B. Ramsay Reminisc. Sc. Life (1860) 1st Ser. v. 108   The old-fashioned easy way of asking a friend to dinner was to ask him if he would take his kail with the family.

b. Sc. Phrases: cauld kale het again, something stale served up again; e.g. an old sermon doing duty a second time. to give one his kale through the reek, to treat one in some unpleasant fashion, to let one ‘have it’.

1660    in J. Ramsay Scotl. & Scotsmen 18th Cent. (1888) II. 80   We will take cold kail het again tomorrow.

1816    Scott Old Mortality i, in Tales of my Landlord 1st Ser. III. 12   When my mother and him forgathered, they set till the sodgers, and I think they gae them their kale through the reek!

1823    J. Galt Entail III. xxx. 282   Theirs was a third marriage, a cauld-kail-het-again affair.

1840    C. Brontë Let. in E. C. Gaskell Life C. Brontë (1857) I. ix. 214   He would have given the Dissenters their kale through the reek—a Scotch proverb.


3. N. Amer. slang. Money.


1922    S. Lewis Babbitt xiii. 172   You will get 111% on your kale in this fun-fest.

1926    Flynn's 16 Jan. 638/1   The kale is cut up an th' biggest corner goes to th' brains.

1927    Daily Express 23 Sept. 1   Enough ‘kale’ (prize-fighters’ name for money) has been received‥to assure the promoters a profit of approximately £100,000.


And, for dessert, some choice compounds for you:


kale-bell n. the dinner-bell.

kale-brose n. oatmeal-brose made with the fat skimmings of meat-broth.

kale-gully n. a knife for cutting kale.

kale-runt n. [no further explanation given!]

kale-time n. dinner-time.

kale-turnip n. = kohlrabi n. ( Chambers's Encycl. 1890).

kale-wife n. a woman who sells kale or greens.


All right my lovelies, that's quite enough kale for one evening. This kale-wife bids you adieu on a balmy evening in Rio, where her hair is becoming a baroque piece of frizzled kale, or couve [koh-vee], as our lovely dark green is called in these parts.

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