View OED entry

sabo noun & verb earlier than 1977/1960

An equivalent use of saboing dating to 1917 in a source unconnected to Singapore was identified by Bryn.

Sabo, an abbreviated form of the English word sabotage, is a Singaporean slang term that means tricking people or intentionally making trouble for them, especially to gain a personal advantage. The word can be used as both a noun and a verb, and the earliest quotations for both uses in the current OED entry are taken from the same 1977 Straits Times article:

You…chalk up points in your favour…at the expense of others by the dirty trick of ‘sabo-ing’…them. In other words, back stabbing.

You have been had, buddy. Sabo King strikes again!

1977 Straits Times (Singapore), 20 February, p. 11

The use of sabo as a noun is recorded earliest in the expression sabo king, another Singaporean colloquialism, which refers to a person who habitually tries to sabo others.

Since the entry has been published, OED editors have been able to find an older example of sabo used as a verb, from an article in the Singapore Free Press dated 1960:

Certain members of the Faculty of Medicine are still talking angrily about how they were ‘saboed’ (varsity slang for ‘sabotaged’) from enjoying themselves at the Orientation Dance.

1960 Singapore Free Press 27 June, p. 6

This makes us think that there may be earlier evidence for sabo still left to be discovered.  Can you help us by finding examples of sabo as a verb earlier than 1960, or sabo as a noun earlier than 1977?

Posted by OED_Editor on 10 May 2016 17.28