• Paul Anthony Jones


(v., adj.) stolen or pilfered

Cabbaged is the longest word that can be spelled using musical notes:

...although we don’t recommend playing that because it sounds like something even Arnold Schoenberg would turn his nose up at.

The seven musical notes from A–G can be used to spell around 100 English words, including the likes of face, cafe, decaf, badge, faded, defaced and effaced, acceded and deceded, baggage, feedbag and gagged. The fact that the musical note B is designated H in some notational systems would more than double this total, and add the likes of hedge, beach, chafed and chaffed, egghead, beheaded and headache to the list. The 10-letter word deadheaded would also step forward and steal the record from cabbaged. (Shameless plug: there’s more on this in the HH fact book, Word Drops.)

We needed to point out that cabbaged is the longest dictionary word on this list as other 8-letter musical words (or longer, for that matter) are certainly possible, but not universally acknowledged.

Of these also-rans, debagged—the past tense of debag, British slang for “to take one’s trousers off”—is probably the most conceivable, while the likes of debadged, bedeafed, baggaged and cabbagebed are all perfectly feasible words that stumble on not having been widely accepted onto the pages of our dictionaries.

But as HH pointed on out Twitter, the sooner people who look like they’ve overindulged start to be described as feedbag-faced, that cabbaged record will be ours.

One question remains, though: what on earth does cabbaged mean?

Well, this cabbage isn’t the cabbage you’ll find in your coleslaw. As a verb, cabbage means “to steal” or “to pilfer”, but as Merriam-Webster point out that meaning has nothing to do with thieves stealing vegetables from unguarded farmyards. Derived from an old French word, cabas, meaning “stealing” or “theft”, cabbage is a slang word for the off-cuttings of tailored garments, which clothes-makers were once permitted to keep for their own use as a perquisite of their job.

Perhaps because less reputable tailors and cutters had a habit of trimming off more fabric than was actually required, the word has long had an association with shady dealings, and ultimately makes our musical cabbaged is merely another word for “stolen”, “purloined”, or “embezzled”.


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