Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Wikipedia.
Related to rube: Rube Goldberg
Like this video? Subscribe to our free daily email and get a new idiom video every day!
A call for help. It originated among members of traveling circuses in the late 19th century. The carnival performer yelled out, "Hey, Rube!" as the unruly crowd advanced on him.
Describing an unnecessarily complicated machine used for a simple task. Rube Goldberg was an American cartoonist known for drawing such contraptions. I just love these silly Rube Goldberg machines—it takes imagination to design something so complicated!
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
An intricate contraption, usually involving a chain reaction, that is designed to produce quite simple results. It is named for Reuben (“Rube”) Goldberg (1883–1970), who according to Willard Espy, prospered for more than fifty years by developing cartoon equivalents of the mountain that labored to give birth to a mouse. The name later was used to describe any overly confusing or overcomplicated system. Rube Goldberg machines have shown up in numerous films. In Back to the Future (1985), Doc Brown has a Rube Goldberg machine to start cooking his breakfast and feed his dog when the clock changes to a certain time in the morning. The term also has been used quite figuratively, as in “The Senator’s plans for health care reform resemble a Rube Goldberg.”
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
A rallying cry for assistance when trouble breaks out. The phrase began in the days of touring carnivals and circuses. A carnival or circus performer or stagehand who found himself in an argument or altercation with patrons or other outsiders yelled, “hey, Rube,” the signal for his colleagues to run and help him out. An item in the Chicago Tribune in 1882 explained that “a canvasman watching a tent is just like a man watching his home. He'll fight in a minute if the outsider cuts the canvas [to sneak in], and if a crowd comes to quarrel—he will yell, ‘Hey, Rube!' That's the circus rallying cry, and look out for war when you hear it.” “Rube” might have been the name of an actual person summoned for assistance, although another possibility is that “rube” referred, as it still does, to country bumpkins; that is, to members of rural carnival and circus audiences who were likely to start trouble.
Endangered Phrases by Steven D. Price Copyright © 2011 by Steven D. Price