Word of the Week (113): JIBBONS (probability 31094), by David Sutton

JIBBONS is a West Country dialect word for spring onions, not to be confused with JIBBINGS, which is the last milk drawn from a cow. The word derives from Norman French chiboule, which in turn goes back to the Latin caepa, onion, and so is etymologically the same as those other words for a spring onion, CIBOL, CHIBOL and CIBOULE. Note that there is no JIBBON*.

An onion is not perhaps the most exciting of vegetables, despite its starring appearance as the solution to the famous Anglo-Saxon riddle about a hairy thing that makes maidens' eyes water. But it is worth noting that you can have ONIONY, which compares to give ONIONIER and ONIONIEST, and the lexicon contains several more oniony words. A SHALLOT (or SHALOT or ESCHALOT) is a variety of onion with garlic-flavoured bulbs. A SCALLION is yet another name for the spring onion, as is the Scots SYBO (or SYBOE or SYBOW). Scots also gives us INGAN for the onion itself.

ONIONSKIN is a very thin variety of paper. And of course onion makes an appearance in dishes too numerous to mention, from which I wll just single out the useful SOUBISE, a sauce made with onions or onion puree, named after the Prince de Soubise, the quite useful DOPIAZA, an Indian dish of meat or fish in onion sauce, and the splendidly useless CHAKALAKA, a South African relish of tomatoes, onions and spices.


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