"eat lunch on" (& "dine out on")

Mailbox mailbox at GRAMMARPHOBIA.COM
Thu Apr 22 16:19:03 UTC 2010

On 4/20/10 8:08 PM, Joel S. Berson wrote:

> Is there not an expression "eat lunch on" something, meaning
> something like (I don't know quite how to put it) "greatly enjoy
> ridiculing, finding the flaws in, etc."? Can I find it discussed somewhere?
There's a similar expression, "dine out on." 

The OED has this definition: "to dine out on: to be given hospitality at dinner partly or chiefly for the sake of one's conversation or knowledge about (a specific incident or topic, etc.)." A story you can "dine out on" is one that provides good dinner conversation. The OED's first citation is from 1923.

But I've also known the expression to be used figuratively to mean to seize on (some weakness or flaw in an opponent, perhaps a juicy bit of gossip), and trade on it in some way.  

And I've heard it used in another sense: to take advantage of or build a reputation on (an experience, a piece of knowledge, etc.). For example, an old boss of mine used to say that former N.Y. Times writers and editors, having left the paper, forever after "dined out on" their affiliation--that is, used it to get plum jobs, writing assignments, book contracts, and so on.

Pat O'Conner

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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