Saturday, November 03, 2012


Someone asked where Traverse City’s Slabtown got its name. Located at the west end of Front Street, it was once populated by mill workers who built houses for themselves out of wood scraps taken from the sawmills. The flat, broad, and comparatively thick pieces of wood were called slabs.

The Oxford English Dictionary opts for obscure origin, but points out that the word has been applied to all kinds of material that can take that form. Metal was molded into oblong pieces called slabs before being rolled. So were small chunks of glass. Irregular masses of rubber were called slabs, as were rectangular blocks of pre-cast reinforced concrete used in high rises. A flat piece of wood or stone used as a table was called a slab; think of a mortuary table. A slab of bacon was an unsliced chunk, and a slab cake was baked in a large rectangular pan.

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