CRIBS - ''where the magic happens''
Updated: Jul 21
Who was the first person to call a house a crib? As with so much else in the English language, William Shakespeare gets the credit. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first time "crib" was used to mean "a small dwelling" came in his 1597 play Henry VI. Part I, when King Henry delivers this soliloquy about his subjects and expresses bewilderment at their living arrangements:
"Why rather, sleep, liest thou in smoky cribs, Upon uneasy pallets stretching thee, And hush'd with buzzing night-flies to thy slumber, Than in the perfum'd chambers of the great"
For years afterwards, "crib" would be used somewhat derogatorily to refer to tiny homes or shops. Nineteenth century England was when and where "cribs" largely became known as a slang word used by thieves to refer to the homes or shops they were planning to target. (The common phrase went "to crack a crib.") One of the most famous fictional criminal masterminds — Fagin in Charles Dickens' 1838's Oliver Twist — makes several references to breaking into cribs throughout the novel including: "Now, my dear, about that crib at Chertsey; when is it to be done, Bill, eh? When is it to be done? The first post-war reference to "cribs" as homes came in the iconic Dan Burley's Original Handbook of Harlem Jive (the source of many other popular words and phrases). As Burley wrote in one verse:
" 'Twas the night before Nicktide, and all through the crib You could hear Joe Hipp spieling that righteous ad lib."
The pair defined a crib as "[a] house, home, where you can not only hang your hat, but raise hell." Given that "crib" was used to describe a place where illicit activities took place for most of the early history of the word, it's kind of funny that the word is now associated with opulence and wealth. Not bad for a word that used to refer to a hovel. MTV Cribs was the guiltiest of pop-culture pleasures in the early 2000's. The premise was simple. Stars showed off their houses, and the masses got a peek at life behind the mansion gates. Viewers saw "where the magic happened"