Sunday, July 26, 2015

Hast Du Dein(en) Lunch gehabt?

IMAGE: Haim’s Quick-Lunch Restaurant menu. New York, 1906. NYPL, Rare Book Division. Found here.

A simple question, perhaps, but one which recently stimulated several other questions not so easily answered.

Surely most native German speakers would still prefer Mittagessen to Lunch, and, certainly 50 years ago, "Lunch" would probably not have been in general use in the German language?

In fact how many native English speakers would have used the noun lunch in the mid 20th century for a meal eaten around midday?

Did the noun Luncheon come into English usage before lunch did and was it then truncated or did lunch come first? It appears, whichever was the case (& lunch being the first in usage seems more likely but by no means certain, cf. [1]), that there was a Spanish or French influence which gave rise to the term now used in English.

At what point in the last century did we abandon dinner for lunch?

The BBC recently contributed a host of interesting historical facts to the topic of our eating habits when their excellent documentary, "Back in time for dinner" [2], was aired in the Spring.

So, to lunch, as it is now commonly referred to in English, or is it?

Do we need to research sociolects (social dialects) to discover when lunch was first in popular usage & by whom? It seems the upper classes in the 1950s would eat "lunch" in the middle of the day, whereas the middle classes were still eating "dinner" [3].

Maybe American nouns for meal times (cf. "Breakfast in America" [4]) were, in part, instrumental in lunch's rise in popularity when its usage was increased by GIs bringing it across the pond with them to Blighty during WWII. "Stateside", there are still queries to this day about which meal is taken when, cf. lunch vs dinner vs supper discussion [5]. Was it the increasing use of lunch in England after the war which led to its acceptance as a noun in the German language?

And so, back to the original point of this post – would you use der oder das Lunch in German? Duden is clear and says "maskulin" [6]. However, if a gender choice is given for "Pub" [7], one should be free to have "das Lunch im Pub", nicht wahr? Mahlzeit! [8] (& spot the "typo" in the Mahlzeit article ;-) )