Tag Archives: munch


“I have a hunch,” Maury said, “we’ve beaten the lunch bunch to the punch.”

“Yes,” I said, surveying the still-deserted food court, “we’re ahead of the crunch.”

Jess nodded approvingly. “That’s good. I hate to have to use a truncheon to approach my luncheon.”

Maury looked at his watch. “Of course, the fact that it’s barely eleven would have something to do with it.”

“So we’ll call it a brunch,” Jess said.

I shrugged. “I just want something to munch.” I looked around. “Not too many options in that respect.”

“We’re surrounded by food places!” Jess protested. “Not too many options?”

“Most of what they serve does not make an audible crunch,” I said. “I am not of that school who – like some restaurant reviewers – would use munch for eating foods such as fried eggs or mashed potatoes.”

“Or soft tacos or hamburgers,” Maury added. He looked over to his left and jabbed me with his elbow. “You could get a Double Down.”

I looked down at his elbow. “What was that?”

“A dunch,” he said. “A short sharp blow, with the elbow.”

“Well,” I said, returning to the main topic, “double down is what I want in my pillow, not on my plate – and goose down, not chicken down.”

“Well, then, what sounds tastiest?”

“So far,” I said, “unch.”

“You can’t make a meal of a phonaestheme,” Jess pointed out.

“True,” I said, “but it works the jaws and, with that final affricate, makes a sort of crunch.”

“Would you really call it a phonaestheme?” Maury mused. “Do the words all have some element of sense in common?”

“They mostly seem to have an onomatopoeic origin,” I said. “Even bunch is thought to have an imitative basis.”

“Well,” said Jess, “I don’t know that I’d be as definite as that. I seem to recall that the OED gives ‘of obscure origin’ for several of them.”

“My favourite is its source for luncheon,” I said. “It says ‘related in some way to lunch.’”

“Which, in its turn,” Maury said, “may have formed on the basis of lump the same way hunch may have been based on hump and bunch may be related to bump.”

“And then there’s the other lunch,” I said, “basically obsolete now: ‘the sound made by the fall of a soft, heavy body.’”

“A lump, perhaps?” said Maury. “Does a lurch by a lump count?”

“Well,” declared Jess, “I would like a lump of something for lunch.” She looked around again. “Holy cow!”

We looked up. In the short time we had been tasting words, lines had formed at all of the food places. Maury threw his hands up as if crying “Uncle!” and audibly collapsed onto the nearest seat.

“Well,” said Jess, “that was our ‘lunch.’”

Thanks to Gabriel Cooper for suggesting the unch words.


I’ve long wanted to write a satire of restaurant reviewing called “Munching Thick, Crusty Slabs.” Except that treading through the emetically hackneyed clichés of kitchen hacks would really be too much for me very quickly: a world where every slice of bread is a slab, as many things are thick or crusty as you can possibly imagine, and one can munch eggs… or squash? I could just scream. But munch really does seem to get used ever more widely, and not just in restaurant reviewing. Apparently not everyone finds this jarring, as not everyone has a present sense of the onomatopoeic origin of this word.

Oh, it’s a word for eating, alright, with the teeth involved and the jaw visibly moving, and making a perceptible noise or at least a clear sensation of crushing; it carries the sense easily in the saying (and one may, if one will, discern some hints of teeth in the shape of the word, but of course that’s adventitious). Since the class of food most marked for its munchiness is that on which we snack, however, the sense has extended to other snackable things. Munching is apposite for snacks: the satisfaction of the crunching amplifies the effect of the food, bringing suitable satiety with less quantity. But the notion of noshing seems to supersede the sound in some quarters, so that one may be said to munch a canapé even sans crepitation.

The rhyme with lunch is unavoidable; bunch can enter in, and even hunch, but somehow punch seems to have less influence. But what words is this one seen around? Ah. Well, a look in the Corpus of Contemporary American English gives us such as Oslo, painting, museum, Edvard, and Scream. Hm! That’s the painter, Munch, whose name is not even said the same way. But he does come to mind when one sees this word. Especially if one is seeing a restaurant reviewer speak of, say, munching ice cream.