Antedating of "lunch"

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Tue Jun 23 18:03:53 UTC 2009

OED has for "lunch" #2, under sense 2a:
A synonym of LUNCHEON n. 2. (Now the usual word exc. in specially formal use, though formerly objected to as vulgar.) Also, a light meal at any time of the day.

1829 [H. BEST] Pers. & Lit. Mem. 307 The word lunch is adopted in that ‘glass of fashion’, Almacks, and luncheon is avoided as unsuitable to the polished society there exhibited. 1839-41 S. WARREN Ten Thous. a-year viii. I. 256 He happened to mention it at lunch. 1842 A. COMBE Physiol. Digestion (ed. 4) 266 We do not experience the same dislike to exertion after a light forenoon lunch.   [and later]

Here are a few antedatings, as usual from NYC newspapers.  All but one are the names of eating shops:

1825:   [Van Antwerp's Lunch, under Washington Hall, is serving "Hoboken Soup"]
        N-Y National Advocate, June 4, 1825, p. 2, col. 4.  My apologies for not having the verbatim context; I made this note out of an interest in Hoboken and its role as a resort for New Yorkers.

1825:   LUNCH. ***  "The Bread and Cheese" holds its first meeting, this evening, at 300 Broadway.  A full meeting is very desirable.
        N-Y American, November 3, 1825, p. 2, col. 5.  The English majors among us will [not] remember "The Bread and Cheese" as a literary and social club founded by James Fenimore Cooper.

1825:    The rooms of the LUNCH will be kept open from 10 o'clock in the morning until 10 o'clock at night; there Gentlemen who have subscribed journals and newspapers will please send them to 300 Broadway.
        N-Y American, November 30, 1825, p. 2, col. 6

1829:   *** Two hours before dinner yesterday, the seats in the dining cabin were possessed by a set of wild, fierce looking men, determined to have the first touch of the edible.  It is said that they ate one little fellow, who ventured among them, by way of a lunch -- certain it is, that he went down into the cabin, and was never seen afterwards. ***
        Morning Courier & N-Y Enquirer, November 17, 1829, p. 2, col. 1   From a long satirical account of the crowding and other discomforts on the steam-boat to Albany.

1830:   FULTON LUNCH, corner of Broadway and Fulton-street.  ***  Our brethren, the working men, cannot patronize a better landlord, nor satisfy their appetites on better fare.
        N-Y Daily Sentinel, May 11, 1830, p. 2, col. 3


George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much lately.

The American Dialect Society -

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