How did a vegetable become associated as slang for ridiculous, silly, humor?

“Corn-fed yokels.” In vaudeville touring days, “corn” was a synonym for anything liked by small-town hicks.

I think “corny” refers to farmers. That is, city-folk think they have a more sophisticated sense of humour thatn their rural brethren. Unsophisticated humour would therefore appeal to farmers, who often raise corn; hence, “corny”.

The unsophisticated rural types (rubes) like folksy, simple humor and entertainment.

They live on farms.

Farms grow corn.

Missed it by one minute!

Okay, that’s pretty well settled. Now how about this… a “rube,” I’m pretty certain, is short for “rubin”; what’s a rubin?

Damn! I used to know this! Well, if I can’t answer the question, as usual, I’ll just spew random knowledge like a lawn sprinkler.

It’s spelled “reuben.” You see it in scores by George M. Cohan, so it goes back at least to the 1890s in New York City slang.

Another term Cohan used was “Jay.” (See his “Forty-five Minutes from Broadway,” which mocked the hicks in New Rochelle.) “Jay” led to “jay-walking,” still used, which described the way a corn farmer would try to cross the avenues when he hit the big city.

Hah! Got it!

“‘Reuben’ had become generic for a countryman by about 1850, and its short form ‘rube’ was in print use by the 1890s. ‘Rube’ in this sense either originated in or was taken up by carnival, circus, and show biz argot. The cry of alarm ‘Hey, Rube!’ was put up by carnival people when a ‘local yokel’ for some reason complained loudly, threatened, or actually picked a fight. In 1891 Tin Pan Alley published ‘Hey, Rube,’ a song by J. Sherrie Matthews and Harry Bulger. One of the best-known occurrences of ‘Reuben’ in popular culture is in the lyrics of George M. Cohan’s song ‘Only 45 Minutes from Broadway.’ New Rochelle, just north of the city, was supposed to be the setting of the musical show of 1906. ‘Oh! what a fine bunch of Reubens, Oh! what a jay atmosphere/ They have whiskers like hay, and imagine Broadway only 45 minutes from here.’”

– Irving Lewis Allen, THE CITY IN SLANG: NEW YORK LIFE AND POPULAR SPEECH, Oxford University Press, 1993.

DAMN—this is what happens when I have to WORK; Ike gets to these things before I can . . .

Curse you, job!

What about hick? Is it because of the sterotype that says country folks hiccup a lot?

hick 'hic\ n [Hick, nickname for Richard] : an unsophisticated provencial person

New Yawkers believe that “hick” derives from “Hicksville”, now a Long Island suburb of the Greatest City on Earth, but in the 19th Century a backward and rustic farming community, filled with hicks.


Hicksville could mean “Richard’s Village”.

And here I thought you were talking about my new pet corn snake. :slight_smile: