BL: lunch, luncheon
Posted: 01 October 2013 05:02 AM   [ Ignore ]
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This may be one of the most confused etymologies I’ve come across.

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Posted: 01 October 2013 05:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/lunch

Recorded since 1580; presumably short for luncheon, apparently an alteration from nuncheon, nonechenche “light mid-day meal”, itself from none “noon” (from Latin nonus) + schench “drink” (from Old English scenc, from scencan “pour out") and altered by northern English dialect lunch “hunk of bread or cheese” (1590), which probably is from Spanish lonja “a slice” (literally “loin")

Any thought on this Dave?

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Posted: 01 October 2013 06:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I’ve added:

Luncheon was also influenced by the older nuncheon, referring to a drink or light snack in the afternoon. Nuncheon is recorded from the mid-thirteenth century and comes from noon + scenc (drink), both roots going back to Old English. The shorter form nunch is also found in various British dialects. But whether luncheon/lunch was formed in imitation of nuncheon/nunch, or the clipping to nunch taking place in imitation of lunch is not known. The influence could have flowed in either direction.

Wiktionary gets it a bit wrong. The influence between nuncheon and luncheon could have flowed in the other direction. And the idea that lunch comes from lonja is pretty much out the window with the earlier cite from the French dictionary. The similarity between lunch and lonja is most likely coincidental.

(In general, Wiktionary is not a good source. Lexicography is not like writing encyclopedia articles, which merely requires subject matter expertise. Lexicography requires an extensive background in linguistics to do it right and writing definitions is a rarefied skill. While portions of dictionary work, like citation hunting, can be crowd-sourced, the actual writing of the entries can’t be.)

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Posted: 01 October 2013 06:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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The first recorded appearance of lunch is in Richard Percival’s 1591 Spanish–English dictionary, in which he defines lonja de tocino as “a lunch of bacon.” One might think that the English lunch is related to the similar Spanish lonja, except that luncheon appears some eleven years earlier than lunch, this time in a French–English dictionary.

I don’t follow the logic here.  If (as seems likely, or at least plausible) lunch is the original form, luncheon is irrelevant, and lunch could perfectly well have been borrowed from lonja (which would originally have been pronounced “lonzha") or a related word.

Edit:
And the idea that lunch comes from lonja is pretty much out the window with the earlier cite from the French dictionary.

Again, I don’t see the logic.  Surely you’re not suggesting the word didn’t exist before what is at the moment the earliest attestation?

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Posted: 01 October 2013 08:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Luncheon is attested earlier than lunch.

The connection with lonja doesn’t come along until later, and only happens to be made because lunch is used to translate lonja in a bilingual dictionary—which also kind of kills the derivation from lonja because why would the dictionary editor have used an unfamiliar borrowing to translate the root word? One would expect “hunk” or “thick slice” if lunch were not already familiar to the editor and readers of the dictionary.

The etymological history appears to be lump --> lunch ("thick slice,” formation akin to hump/hunch) --> lunching/luncheon --> lunch ("midday meal"). But there are holes in the recorded transmission of the word, so we can’t be sure.

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Posted: 01 October 2013 09:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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A couple of notes, FWIW:

First, the penultimate sentence in the second paragraph begins by saying that “Even though luncheon appears later in the record” than lunch, this does not necessarily tell us which one is first.  I certainly agree with the latter point, but from what you said above it was lunch that appears later (that is, that is first attested to later), not luncheon. 

Second, I was confused as to why the “best guess” was that lunch was first: sure, an eleven year gap is very weak evidence that luncheon is first, but it wasn’t clear what evidence was pointing to lunch being first.  I eventually stumbled on to the thought, which the most recent post seems to confirm, that “lunch” is probably first becuse it probably evolved from the lump.  However, this wasn’t clear to me because the opening paragraph seemed to question precisely that etymology.  (I was primed for this misreading by the fact that, in general, when a narrative says something like, “the traditional view is X, but that may not be true”, this usually means that the writer thinks the traditional view is wrong, not that it may be wrong but is probably correct.)

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Posted: 01 October 2013 11:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Dave, one of us is confused, and I’m not sure which of us it is.  You say:

Luncheon is attested earlier than lunch.

But in the linked article, you write (quite correctly, in my view):

Even though luncheon appears later [read “earlier"] in the record, an eleven-year difference across a span of more than four centuries is not that great, and the shorter lunch could be the original form. The bottom line is we don’t know which came first, but the best guess is that it was lunch.

Is the gap significant or isn’t it?  And if lunch was (per “the best guess") the original form, how is luncheon relevant?

Then you say:

The connection with lonja doesn’t come along until later, and only happens to be made because lunch is used to translate lonja in a bilingual dictionary—which also kind of kills the derivation from lonja because why would the dictionary editor have used an unfamiliar borrowing to translate the root word? One would expect “hunk” or “thick slice” if lunch were not already familiar to the editor and readers of the dictionary.

With respect, that doesn’t make any sense.  Lunch could a) be already familiar to the editor and readers of the dictionary, b) be borrowed from lonja, and c) be used to translate lonja, all at the same time.  I don’t know why this is so difficult; cheese is borrowed from Latin caseus, and yet if you look up caseus in a Latin-English dictionary, it says… cheese!

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Posted: 01 October 2013 03:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Good points, all. I think I’ve clarified things.

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