I've paid off my grubstake

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)."