Another old word with a new meaning I learnt from Nicola Solomon of The Society of Authors when I heard her speak earlier this week (see yesterday's post on 'legacy media') was 'cabbage'. She said the publishing industry had appropriated the term from the fashion world. I found this definition, taken from the book Fashion Babylon, on this website:
On fashion 'cabbage' - stuff made out of over-ordered material in a factory: Cabbage is the stuff that falls off the back of a lorry, or indeed out of the factory gate, and ends up on a market stall. It comes from the leftover product that the factory hasn't used in the making of the bag/dress/shirt. It disappears out the back of the factory and ends up in a Florence or Milan market. The Gucci handbags in Florence market look just like the real ones simply because they are the real ones.
I thought it was perhaps a modern slang word, but the OED has a citation for this sense dating back to 1663. The OED's definition is "Offcuts of cloth appropriated by tailors and dressmakers as a perk when cutting out clothes".
The Dictionary says that the origin of the term is uncertain. It is not necessarily related to the vegetable, which has its origin in Norman French (the word, that is). The OED says it might be related to 'garbage' (in its original sense of 'animal offal or entrails'), although it is always possible that tailors would roll up their fabric into balls which resembled heads of cabbage. The Dictionary also gives another couple of possible origins. It might be from the French cabasser, to set goods aside, to steal or cheat, or from the French cabuser, to cheat or deceive. However, the OED says that the earliest examples it can find in English do not use 'cabbage' in a general sense of cheating or stealing, but always refer specifically to tailors, which was not the case with the French verbs. Later on (late 18th century onwards) the verb 'cabbage' was used in a general sense to mean 'pilfer' or 'acquire inappropriately'.