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OED, please note

A colleague was perplexed to come across the word cribbery while proofreading a page of religious notes. He had never seen the word before, and it did not turn up in printed or electronic dictionaries, including the Oxford English Dictionary.

What I suspect — and a superficial Google search confirms — is that it is a largely regional term. Mainline churches, particularly Episcopal, Presbyterian and Methodist — in the Mid-Atlantic frequently list on their Web sites that they offer cribberies. There are examples from Massachusetts and Ohio, but the word most commonly appears with congregations in Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania.

Many churches offer nursery care for children during services. Some announce that they have nurseries and cribberies or a combined nursery/cribbery. A cribbery specifically offers care for infants and toddlers, sometimes with a trained staff member rather than a volunteer parishioner. The derivation from the word crib is obvious, as is the indication that care for infants is included.

The Google search also turned up examples such as this one from a personal Web journal: The honeys done talk my ear off on what they did at T's ma duke's cribbery. In this and similar examples, cribbery appears to derive from crib in the slang sense of a person’s apartment or house or jail cell. And perhaps some examples also derive from underworld slang for a brothel. Probably not a sense that any Anglicans are encouraging.

If you were not previously aware of the word, your vocabulary has now benefited from a modest expansion, and the lexicographers have a little more data for their swelling files.

And an update: I believe that the paragraphing problem in some RSS feeds has been resolved, thanks to the advice of Mary Hartney, whom I hired as a copy editor before she was elevated to the multimedia desk. When your abilities are modest, always hire smarter people.

Posted by John McIntyre at 1:16 PM | | Comments (4)


...and now even NewsFire cooperates! Well done, Mary Hartney! :-)

I would have guessed "cribbery" to be the art of making and concealing cheat sheets for tests.

AND: Kudos on the RSS fix. I hope the fix didn't inconvenience anyone too much.

Thank you for fixing the paragraph thing.

This Anglican will now be on the lookout for local cribberies, as cited in the church bulletin or on the street. Word.

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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