Rhabarberbarbara, a two-minute video. It’s in German, but I’m pretty sure you don’t need much, if any, German to enjoy it. Enjoy!
Addendum. On sober reflection, it occurs to me that it might be helpful to mention that Rhabarber (from Medieval Latin rha barbarum) is the German word for ‘rhubarb’ (from Medieval Latin reubarbarum). It’s odd that both words have kept the vestigial Greek rh-.


  1. Too bad that Rhabarber is consistently misspelled in the captions.
    Rhabarber-Barbara-Bar-Barbaren-Bart-Barbier-Bier-Bar-Bärbel. Fairly euphonious for a tonguetwister, actually.

  2. des von bladet says

    Until today my employment at a well-known social media site was listed as “veevoervervoeder” at “Van Veen veevoervervoer, bv.”, but I doff my unhat to this mastery.

  3. I’ve always liked the Italian word for beetroot or beets, which is barbabietola.

  4. John Emerson says

    For decades I thought that “rebarbative” meant “nauseating”. This error rarely caused any serious misunderstanding.

  5. marie-lucie says

    It’s odd that both words have kept the vestigial Greek rh-
    It is la rhubarbe in French, with rh- too. The rh is not so odd, because the word is part of learned vocabulary (the plant being used for medicinal purposes and largely unknown as food in Europe and America until quite late), just like Eng rheum, rheumatism (cf French le rhume ‘head cold’, le rhumatisme). Spanish does not use extra letters which do not reflect pronunciation and the corresponding word is el ruibarbo.

  6. That was thoroughly delightful. Thanks for sharing, Languagehat!

  7. In English, you can say “bla, bla, bla” to someone speaking (or about someone who is speaking), in order to express your feeling that that someone is droning on and on. For the same purpose you can say “Rhabarber, Rhabarber” in German. The word is usually repeated only once, in English (I think) usually twice, as in my example.
    Droning is das Rhabarber: Ich kann sein Rhabarber nicht mehr ertragen. The plant is der Rhabarber: Für den Kuchen kann ich diesen Rhabarber nicht verwerten, er schmeckt bitter.

  8. I withdraw my claim about the number of repetitions in English and German. It’s too subjective, I have no statistics.

  9. Anglophone actors use such sounds, including “walla-walla”, “rhubarb-rhubarb”, “natter-natter”, and “grommish-grommish”, to create the illusion of background conversation not meant to be understood. See the WP article.

  10. Two days ago my son sent me that link. It’s wonderful. Great minds! I grow my own, and it’s pretty good too, bought in Luxembourg and thriving here in London.

  11. des von bladet says

    Dutch, meanwhile, being in a sense the Espanish of Germanic, settles for “rabarber”.

  12. … As do Swedish & dansk, apparently. Norwegian is rabarbra.

  13. des von bladet says

    As in the Norwegish folk song “rabarbra Barbara Ann”, later covered by the Beach Boys.

  14. I grow rhubarb on my compost heap. Next summer I’m going to sell some by the front gate, labelled “Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb”. And ha, ha, we’re not in the Common Market, so they can’t stop me. I used to get my daughter to do the stuff like unloading dodgy rhubarb, but now she’s nineteen and she’s got her own scams.

  15. Rhumb line. Is that “h” intrusive?

  16. Depends what you mean by intrusive. It’s from Spanish rumbo from Latin rhombus from Greek ῥόμβος.

  17. “It’s from Spanish rumba”: so why pop the “h” in?

  18. Because it’s ultimately from Greek. A lot of words got retrofitted that way.

  19. It’s interesting to think that rhubarb can be made from nightsoil, mungo, and shoddy.

  20. des von bladet says

    Personally I find this rhebarbative rhetrofitting rheprehensible.

  21. Doesn’t this work even better in French? (But I suppose you can’t do the Wortbildung.)
    barbe, barbier, bière
    Thanks LH, I’m still smiling.

  22. Reminds me of my mother’s observation, repeated many times while driving through Quebec forty years ago: “Every house has a rhubarb patch and a manure pile.” The last time she was about to come out with it, fatigue scrambled her thoughts: “Every house has a manure patch and rhubarb pile.” Indeed.

  23. marie-lucie says

    AntC: barbe, barbier, bière
    This reminds me of a story I read long ago in a French children’s magazine, about a character called Barbithorax because sa barbe lui couvrait le thorax. I don’t remember the story but I do remember two pictures of Barbithorax, whose beard not only “covered his torso” but continued down between his legs to trail far behind him (like some yogis in India).

  24. David Marjanović says

    For the same purpose you can say “Rhabarber, Rhabarber” in German.

    True, but geographically not widespread.
    The same goes for the plant itself.

  25. Now for my two cents worth! The best Rhabarberkuchen you will ever eat you will find at the old Kurhaus in Varel-Dangast.
    And that’s no Rhabarber, Rhabarber!