When former UCLA coach and basketball legend John Wooden died last week, one of our writers, C. Ray Hall, did a great story about him. Ray also used a word I'd never heard before:
Despite the tough times, Wooden had saved $909.05 by graduation day in 1932, according to “The Wizard of Westwood.” But the bank closed, as did so many others in the Depression, and he had to borrow $200 to marry his longtime sweetheart, Nellie Riley. The grubstake financed a one-day honeymoon — in Indianapolis.
Since I was at work, I looked up grubstake in Webster's New World, which is our house dictionary. (It's the dictionary at most papers, because it's the one the Associated Press uses.) It defines grubstake as:
- 1. Money or supplies advanced to a prospector in return for a share in any findings.
- 2. Money advanced for any enterprise.
The OED says the word comes from U.S. miners, with the first quotation from 1863. It's literally a stake in someone grubbing, that is, digging, which is grub's definition as a verb:
- 1. To dig in the ground.
- 2. To work hard, especially at something menial or tedious; drudge.
- 3. To search about; rummage.
Grub comes from the "Middle English grubben, meaning to dig, probably from the Old English grybban (akin to the Old High German grubilōn, to bore into)."