One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
Bad-tempered, fractious, disagreeable.
Early 17th century; earliest use found in Matthew Sutcliffe (d. 1629), dean of Exeter. From rhubarb + -ative, after Middle French reubarbatif, alteration of rébarbatif after reubarbe, either punningly or through folk-etymological association (probably with similar motivation).
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