Yesterday was crossword day… our daughter thinks we are so quaint (and maybe weird) that we copy the crossword from the Saturday newspaper so we can each do it.  we each do our own crossword, and only when we are utterly stuck do we compare answers, but one at a time so that the other person has a chance to work out some collateral clues which had been elusive. it is a general knowledge crossword so there are always words which neither of us know, and some areas of knowledge that are a mystery. We each have our strengths, but there is also a common black hole of ignorance!

So when we were doing the crossword and came across a simple clue ‘old word for ship’s kitchen‘ and the only word I knew ‘galley’ didn’t fit, I hoped that my other half would know the answer as he came from a family much connected with the sea, and he was in love with it too… but no, he too was defeated! We both ended up with _ A _ O _ _ _ .

After much pondering we gave up, and having nearly completed everything else, we capitulated and looked up the missing answers. If the clue had been something like ‘an American railway carriage at the end of a freight train’  I think my husband would have got the answer, ‘caboose‘, and although I would never have guessed it I do know what a caboose is… or so I thought.

So a caboose as a ship’s galley… I did a MOOC (massive open on-line course) on maritime architecture and there was a whole section on ships, ship building, etc going back to ancient times and I don’t think the word caboose in that sense cropped up… I may have forgotten though!!

So caboose…

caboose (n.) 1747, “ship’s cookhouse,” from Middle Dutch kambuis “ship’s galley,” from Low German kabhuse “wooden cabin on ship’s deck;” probably a compound whose elements correspond to English cabin and house ….. (it) may have come from the Danish word for a galley, kabys

If I look to Wikipedia it gives a more detailed answer: apparently it’s an obsolete Low German/Dutch/Danish word Kabhuse/kabhuis/ kabys, and it was a small shack actually on a ship’s main deck where all the food was prepared. Apparently there was a similar French word used in the French navy, and with so many words from the sea, it slipped into English, possibly through the French connection with the American sailors during the War of Independence.

The Wikipedia entry doesn’t say anything about the word being used by British sailors or in the British navy, so I’m thinking that it was a bit of an unfair clue as it didn’t specify on which ships this term was used! A clue which said ‘warship‘ to which the answer was ‘trireme‘ would be a bit unfair since it didn’t specify a Roman warship… but maybe I am just being a bad loser

One thing which did amuse me, was that apparently there is an argument as to how to pluralise caboose; should it be ‘caboose/cabeese‘, like ‘goose/geese‘, or caboose/caboose’ like ‘moose/moose’  or should it be ‘caboose/cabooses’? Or should it follow the Danish pattern, kabys/kabyser, and become caboose/cabyooser? The answer it seems is that as it is a ‘loan’ word it just stays the same.

This is the definition from my favourite etymological site:

http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=caboose

… and Wikipedia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caboose

28 thoughts on “Old word for a ship’s kitchen

      • The subject has caused quite a lot of interesting comment Lois. It occurs to me that we tend to use familiar names for utilities which often become common useage. I suspect that galley, caboose and maybe others are multi-purpose names for similar things….highway, road, freeway, track, path etc. for example. With international communication thrust upon us via radio, TV etc it’s probably inevitable that names are portable.

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      • We certainly did….simple things like the use of the word “sweater” for “pullover”….but there are literally hundreds of new words and phrases to be learned even coming from UK where the base language is English. Of course now what is happening is that, due to international ease of communication I suppose, words and phrases from say USA and NZ are interchangeable with the local norms. You probably noticed this when you visited recently. My children and grandchildren use a range of phrases and words which have served to enhance theirvocabulary i think. In addition, my daughter married a Turkish person and that has added to the mix. Caroline, though born in NZ lived in Australia and Britain…now spend much of her time working in Europe and North America and that also influences the total range of conversational language.

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      • I think it’s fascinating Don! My daughter has an Irish boyfriend whose first language is Irish, and also she lived over there for three years (plus a year in the US) so she has all kinds of interesting words and structures – plus the usual young-person-speak!
        In the pub a good friend of ours, Nigel, is called Snags (you know where this is going!) and his wife is known as Mrs Snags, and his son Johnny Snags… years ago he and other pub friends went to Aus for a cricket tour and he became a legend at a BBQ for the number of snags he consumed!!

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      • I like to see our culture spreading! Nothing can beat an Aussie snag anyway…particularly chicken snags.
        Your daughters experience of the wonderful Irish culture is great.

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  1. The person in the caboose was the brakeman. One of his main jobs was to observe the rail cars ahead of him as they went around a bend to see if they had any problems like hot boxes which were overheated bearings which caught on fire. He had a potbellied stove in there where he would cook hot food for the crew and always coffee.

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  2. Don’t know much about ships but worked on our railroad one summer and still have the callouses from pounding spikes. A friend of mine had his mother visit from Scotland years ago and he planned to take her on the tour train to the canyon. I told her that she may see a moose on the way. She said she had a moose in her kitchen back home and had set a trap for it. Still laugh when I think of her.

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  3. The only summer job I had that was harder than the railroad was picking tobacco. That gave me nicotine stains on my callouses and a sore back for life.I learned the value of a good education the hard way with no regrets. As my Dad said when I left home [ It’s a jungle out there son. Send us a postcard when you get a job ]

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    • I was on the onions which were just vinegar – I was on the machine which topped, tailed and skinned them – I spent the first hour with my eyes streaming then i got used to it! In the other room they made a mustard pickle, typical piccalilli, and also mixed vegetable pickles which may have been in a sweet vinegar, i’m not sure!

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    • Do you know the Heath Robinson machines? it was a bit like one of those. I sat on a bicycle saddle and had a treadle which turned a thing which I can only describe as looking like a giant cog but instead of the spikes it had turned up metal pieces. I had to put the onions across-ways on these metal things which went round on the wheel, had their ends sliced off by a blade, and then another blade made a slit in their skins; they fell onto a small rickety conveyor belt and their was a wind jet which blew the skins off. They came out the other end and there were two ladies who checked them and put them into vats to go through to the salting and pickling room. I just sat on my bicycle seat, working the treadle, and occasionally banging the hopper beside me which had all the onions in to send more down into a tray… I came nowhere near anything dangerous, thank goodness, so I have the correct number of fingers and thumbs!

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  4. No the ladies weren’t to blame and I don’t know what you were imagining happened you rascal. I was on a peck-tech machine when someone bumped into me knocking one arm off leaving the other to hold the weight which pulled it back chopping off the finger end. If that wasn’t bad enough they lost the end of my finger at the hospital so couldn’t try to attach it. It makes for a good conversation piece that leads into my rant about the health care system.

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    • Good grief! That sounds horrific! it must have been so painful – and so messy! There seems to be a health and safety issue there as well if someone could bump into you like that! As you say… makes a good story! Do you remember Russ Conway? He had a similar finger mishap but still managed to have two No 1 hits!

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  5. Don’t remember him,before my time.After my accident the YMCA secretly got rid of the pec-tec machine and rearranged all the others. They offered me a free membership for life then withdrew the offer thinking it would imply fault on there part. Tried to sue the Y and the hospital but was advised otherwise by lawyers. No loss of work and don’t play piano was there answer. The finger only hurts a little when really cold but a few beer and reading your blog makes me forget.

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