Entry in progress—B.P.
[This entry includes the research of Ben Zimmer that was posted on the American Dialect Society list.]
(Oxford English Dictionary)
nabe, n. and adj.
Etymology: Representing a pronunciation of a shortened form of neighbourhood n.
1. A local or neighbourhood cinema, esp. as distinguished from a large metropolitan cinema or (now) a multiplex.
1933 Variety 14 Feb., Program fodder, except that there’s more simplicity than purity. It should go to fair results and ought to hold up well in the nabes.
1935 Evening Sun (Baltimore) 8 Apr. 17 On Sunday two powerful [box office pictures] were released to the nabes.
2. A neighbourhood.
1942 L. V. Berrey & M. Van den Bark Amer. Thes. Slang §50/1 Nabe, naborhood, neighb, neighborhood.
2 December 1922, Denver (CO) Post, og. 10, col. 8:
Cagers Will Attend ‘Nabe’ Gym Smoker. Practically every basketball player in the city has promised to attend the benefit smoker at the Neighborhood House gym, Tenth and Galapago, Monday night.
9 August 1938, The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA), Tommy Dorsey and Geo. D. Lottman “Love in Swingtime” (syndicated
serial), pg. 12, col. 2:
“Biggest flopperoo of year, so far,” wrote Green (Abel Green of Variety—ed.) “was the highly touted preeming of Biff Brown’s band at the Ritz, nabe dancery near Bridgeport.”
Pg. 12, col. 3:
Glossary of Swing Words in this Chapter.
Nabe dancery: Neighborhood ballroom.
Nabe or Hood? A Brief History of Shortening ‘Neighborhood’
HENRY GRABARAUG 27, 2012
But the evolution of nabe as neighborhood was harder to pin down. I called Kory Stamper at Merriam-Webster, who tracked its uses over time and reported that the current meaning of “neighborhood” appears frequently in Billboard from the ‘40s through the ‘60s, often used as an adjective – “nabe houses, nabe theaters, nabe sports.” I also reached out to Visual Thesaurus executive producer and Boston Globe columnist Ben Zimmer, who dug up the earliest use he’s aware of: a 1922 Denver Post story that refers to a “nabe gym,” easily predating the word’s 1942 appearance in the American Thesaurus of Slang, the first example registered by the OED.