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Trencherman

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Trencherman

Postby Dr. Goodword » Sat Apr 26, 2014 11:23 pm

• trencherman •


Pronunciation: tren-chêr-mên • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. This Good Word does not refer to someone who digs trenches, but a person with a good appetite who eats heartily, a gourmand. 2. It may also indicate a parasite who always turns up at the table and eats at the expense of others.

Notes: This word certainly comes from trench, but when trench meant "cut" and the knife was the only eating utensil. So the verb trencher has emerged rarely, usually in the form of the noun, trenchering "feasting, eating lavishly". The Oxford English Dictionary spells this Good Word trencher-man, making it a compound rather than a suffixed noun (see the Notes on statesman for the difference). However, it is now simply a derived noun with the suffix -man that we also see in statesman and postman.

In Play: One of the best restaurants here in my hometown for a decade was The Valiant Trencherman, where the locals could genuinely test their appetites. Valiant is a common epithet used with this noun, "Strom Bowley is not a gourmet, but he certainly is a valiant trencherman." In fact, we can use the adjective to distinguish the negative sense of this word, "Farnsworth is a scurrilous trencherman who orders the most expensive item on the menu, then retires to the men's room when they bring the check."

Word History: This word comes from Old French trancheur "cutter" from the verb trancher "to cut, hew, slice". This verb descended from Latin truncare "to cut or lop off", which also led to truncus "tree trunk", what remains when you lop off all the branches. This explains why trenchant means "cutting", as in a trenchant remark, as well as the origin of trench. The root of today's word is also akin to tranche "a share, portion, or 'cut'" of something. The original root is probably the same one that produced Greek trauma "wound". (Today we are grateful to Larry Brady for bringing up a word whose root has as twisted and dashing a history as we will ever find.)
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Re: Trencherman

Postby LukeJavan8 » Sun Apr 27, 2014 2:09 pm

Ken Follett, in his, and others say folks visiting
an inn were given a 'trencher' of mutton stew.
This means a plate or bowl??
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Re: Trencherman

Postby Slava » Sun Apr 27, 2014 5:33 pm

Ken Follett, in his what?

I wonder if stew has always been served with the liquid. Maybe at the time a stew was a dish of stewed things, without the juice. Or perhaps the dish was a lipped trencher. Many non-US "bowls" are what I would call slightly deep plates.

This word also relates to the French/English "tranche" of a loan or other subsidy. That's the "slice" of the whole that is the allotted share at the time.
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Re: Trencherman

Postby Philip Hudson » Sun Apr 27, 2014 6:03 pm

Beatrice in Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” said, “You had musty victual, and he hath holp to eat it. He is a very valiant trencherman.” Shakespeare seemed to like the word. It reminds me of the TV ad that says “Feed it to Mikey, he will eat anything.”

A trencher is a loaf of bread hollowed out for holding stew. I have eaten goulash in Germany from a bread trencher. Eating the bread is optional. A trencher is also a wooden bowl. I have read it can be a bowl of other material but I never heard it used that way.

Trench mouth, or acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis, is a gum disease. I have heard two etymological sources. One is that trench mouth derives from getting the disease from unclean trenchers. Another is that soldiers in WWI got it from living in the trenches. Both seem like folk etymologies to me. Does anybody know the real origin?
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Re: Trencherman

Postby Slava » Sun Apr 27, 2014 6:24 pm

I can't vouch for the veracity, but this article does come down quite strongly and convincingly on the side of a WWI origin of the term trench mouth disease.
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Re: Trencherman

Postby Philip Hudson » Sun Apr 27, 2014 6:48 pm

Slava: it comes down pretty hard on the wooden trencher origin but doesn't give much support to the WWI trench theory.
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Re: Trencherman

Postby beck9100 » Mon Apr 28, 2014 12:06 pm

I have always interpreted the line
"The groaning trencher there ye fill"

in Burns' Ode to a Haggis to refer to the large dish/plate carrying the haggis to the table, not the person eating the haggis, although he may well be groaning too.
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Re: Trencherman

Postby LukeJavan8 » Mon Apr 28, 2014 12:28 pm

WELCOME
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Re: Trencherman

Postby Perry Lassiter » Mon Apr 28, 2014 2:29 pm

Yes, beck9100, you are indeed welcome. You will find this a welcoming group, so feel free to continue to post as you have.

Probably, it is only my weird mind, but I immediately connected the WW1 connection of trenchers to doughboys!
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Re: Trencherman

Postby Philip Hudson » Fri May 02, 2014 3:44 am

beck9100: Welcome to the Agora. Post often.

The trencher is a dish that holds the haggis. The trencherman is the brave Scotsperson who eats the stuff.
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