Green’s Dictionary of Slang

cabbage n.1

[? corruption of 17C SE garbage/carbage, shreds and patches used as padding; predated by hell or eye: see cit. 1785/96; note cit. c.1755 is a sexual pun]

1. (also cabbage leaf) small off-cuts of material, taken from the job in hand and sold off as perks by tailors.

[UK]T. Rawlins Rebellion I i: Now and then look for a Cabbich leafe, or an odde remnant to cloath my bashful buttocks.
[UK]T. Randolph Hey for Honesty V i: This cross-legged infelicity, sharper than my needle, makes me eat my own cabbage.
[UK] Butler Hudibras II 50: For as tailors preserve their cabbage, / So squires take care of bag and baggage.
[UK]Hogan-Moganides 29: The rest were Taylors, All famous Snips, for Clipping, Coyning, For filching Cabbage, and Purloyning.
[UK] ‘Taylors Resolution to be Reveng’d of these Petticoat Press-Masters’ in Euing Broadside Ballads No. 4: Cuds-plutter-a-nails hur believes ’tis no Sin [...] And Cabbage hur knows do’s belong to the Trade of the Taylors.
[UK]B.E. Dict. Canting Crew.
[UK]S. Centlivre Gamester Act III: What Business had you to get Children, without you had Cabbage enough to maintain ’em?
[UK] in D’Urfey Pills to Purge Melancholy VI 292: A Taylor good Lord, in the Time of Vacation, / When Cabbage was scarce and when Pocket was low.
[UK]C. Johnson Hist. of Highwaymen &c 361: A Baker is a worse Rogue than a Taylor; for whereas the latter commonly pinches his Cabbage from the Rich, the former, by making his Bread too light, robs all.
[UK] ‘A Bloody Battle between a Taylor & a Louse’ in Ebsworth Roxburghe Ballads (1891) VII:2 478: All Gentleman Taylors that are willing to serve in the Company of Captain Louse, in Col. Flea’s regiment of Foot, let them repair to the sign of the Cabbage and three Cucumbers.
[UK] ‘Maiden’s Advice to get Married’ in Holloway & Black I (1975) 164: His cabbage so strong my breath it would take.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: Cabbage, cloth, stuff, or silk purloined by taylors from their employers, which they deposit in a place called hell, or their eye: from the first, when taxed with their knavery, they equivocally swear, that if they have taken any, they wish they may find it in hell; or alluding to the second protest, that what they have over and above is not more than they could put in their eye.
[UK]C. Dibdin Yngr Song Smith 119: Cabbage is the taylor’s, / Though he rides his goose.
[UK] ‘Thinks I to Myself’ Sailor’s Vocal Repository 5: Where’s neighbour Snip this evening! that’s a good natured fellow, but monstrously given to Cabbage.
[UK]D. Carey Life in Paris 80: ‘Come fill your glasses higher and higher,’ / Cries Button, the tailor [...] ‘I thank you, friend Button, you’re vastly kind; / And may you have cabbage in plenty.’.
[US]W. Dunlap Memoirs of a Water Drinker I 91: That yellow-faced crow, Martin, who couldn’t live by goose or cabbage, as a tailor, is howling like a wolf.
[US]Illinois Free Trader (Ottowa, IL) 30 Sept. 2/6: A tyailor in New York was [...] charged with stealing vegetables [...] His lawyer contended that he had a pre-emption right to ‘cabbage’.
[US]Spirit of Democracy (Woodsfield, OH) 31 May 1/4: It won’t do to talk of cabbage when the tailors are standing by, nor of wooden nutmegs [...] when there are any Connecticut Yankees about.
[UK] ‘Knyghte and the Taylzeour’s Daughter’ in Martin & Aytoun Bon Gaultier Ballads 9: Gaberdines in countless number / Did the taylzeour-knyghte repair! / And entirely on cucumber, / And on cabbage, lived he there.
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 30 Jan. 1/6: John Garbutt [...] a tailor [...] was pondering on the unde derivatur of the term ‘cabbage,’ as applied to his particular calling.
[UK]N&Q Ser. 1 VIII 315/2: The term cabbage, by which tailors designate the cribbed pieces of cloth, is said to be derived from an old word ‘cablesh,’ i.e. wind-fallen wood. And their ‘hell’ where they store the cabbage, from helan, to hide .
[UK] ‘Strike of the Journeyman Tailors’ in C. Hindley Curiosities of Street Lit. (1871) 135: And I tell you he [i.e. a tailor] was not a green ’un, / Tho’ he grew lots of cabbage to feed on.
[US]Schele De Vere Americanisms 588: Cabbage designates in America as well as in Europe not only the well-known vegetable, but also the pieces of cloth purloined by dishonest tailors [...] A somewhat ludicrous companion to the tailor’s cabbage in America, is his cold-slaw, as he terms the smaller pieces of material which his skilful crooking enables him to save for his own use. The term is chosen in allusion to the fact that cold-slaw consists of finely-cut cabbage, thus representing the small remnants, which in other countries are known as ‘carpet-rags’.
[UK]Edinburgh Eve. News 22 Dec. 3/3: Prisoner said he made the knickerbockers from ‘cabbage’.
[UK]G.A.Sala in Illus. London News 16 Oct. 394 1: My correspondent’s derivation of cabbage from caboged [caboged = ‘cabossed’ or ‘caboched’ in heraldry, in Fr. cabochee. See Littre] is good; but there is another one, namely, cabas, a basket in which the pickings and stealings of cloth might be hoarded [F&H].

2. a tailor.

[UK]Motteux (trans.) Gargantua and Pantagruel (1927) II Bk IV 423: Snip was condemned to make good the stuffs to all his customers; and to this day poor cabbage’s hair grows through his hood.
[UK]New Canting Dict. n.p.: cabbage Taylors are so called, because of their general and immoderate Love of that Vegetable; as also of Cucumbers.
[UK]C. Johnson Hist. of Highwaymen &c. 354: Mr. Cabbage, a mischievous Son of a B--ch! peep’d thro’ the Key-hole.
[UK]Foote Devil Upon Two Sticks in Works (1799) II 260: Kit Cabbage the tailor.
[UK]Egan Life and Adventures of Samuel Hayward 9: The appellations of snip, the ninth part of a man, young cabbage, &c. added to the idea of spoiling his well-turned limbs by sitting cross-legged.
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 27 Sept. 3/1: The Cabbage was knocked down. First blood for Rufus.
[US]A.J. Pollock Und. Speaks 17/1: Cabbage, a tailor (prison).

In compounds

cabbage monger (n.) (also cabbage contractor, ...eater)

a tailor.

[UK]C. Johnson Hist. of Highwaymen &c. 148: Could they not sew a Coat to hold one Day? This Cabbage-monger deserved the Pillory before for filching.
[UK]Bridges Burlesque Homer (3rd edn) 207: Nought but a cross-legg’d cabbage eater / Could ever get so poor a creature.
Comical Cheats of Swalpo 10: Could they not sew a coat to hold one day, this cabbage-monger deserved the pillory before for filching.
[Ire]Tom and Jerry; Musical Extravaganza 52: Cabbage monger, a tailor.
[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues II 4/1: cabbage contractor subs. (old). A tailor.