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Dr. Goodword
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Postby Dr. Goodword » Sun Jul 31, 2005 11:35 pm

• trencherman •

Pronunciation: tren-chêr-mên

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, eating at the expense of others.

Notes: This word certainly comes from trench, but when trench meant "cut" and knives were the only eating utensil. To 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 is probably the same one in 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 you will find.)
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Postby Stargzer » Sat Aug 13, 2005 11:13 pm

• trencherman •

. . . (Today we are grateful to Larry Brady . . .
. . . who is as twisted as they come . . .
. . . for bringing up a word whose root has as twisted and dashing a history as you will find.)
As to dashing, that is another matter . . .

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Postby DerekB » Sun Aug 14, 2005 5:56 am

Having only just ventured into this Agora, starting by seeming to disagree with the Good Dr Goodword is perhaps presumptuous. However, although not disputing the basic origin of trencherman, I had always been of the opinion that it is a formation from trencher, meaning a wooden plate or board on which food is cut or from which food is eaten. Trencher (this meaning and others) would appear to reach us from trancher as described.

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Postby KatyBr » Sun Aug 14, 2005 12:16 pm

Derek, that's what I had always understood also, the term was also used as the bread cut to form a recptacle into which the food was poured like a bowl or plate to catch the juices of a stew or bloody, greasy meat.


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What was a trencher?

Postby Dr. Goodword » Sun Aug 14, 2005 7:08 pm

I don't think Derek is contradicting the good Doctor. The latter quite cagily left out any discussion of trencher because it has so many meanings, all of which tie in with trencherman.

A trencher was at varying times in its career:

1. The knife food was cut with (the only utensile used in eating until quire recently)
2. The person who did the cutting (or a ditch digger who happened by);
3. A slice of bread that was used as a plate before plates were widely accepted;
4. The board or plate on which the meat rested as it was cut when they came into style;
5. All the food on the table, cut or otherwise.

Trying to tie the meaning of trencherman directly to anyone of those senses strikes me as an exercise rather like trying to find some distinguishing mark that would allow you to distinguish your white horse from your black one.
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Postby M. Henri Day » Sun Aug 21, 2005 4:53 am

I have an especial fondness for the Italian equivalent of this term, viz, una buona forchetta (I shan't presume upon the patience of my fellow Agorists by detailing the circumstances under which I encountered this phrase)....


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Postby Brazilian dude » Sun Aug 21, 2005 8:26 am

Portuguese has ser um bom garfo with the same meaning.

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