16 Marvelous Old Words for Munching We Need to Bring Back

Hulton Archive // Getty Images
Hulton Archive // Getty Images

Whether you’re enjoying a movie or eating your feelings, it’s hard to resist a good munch—or as the kids say these days, a nom nom nom. So why not learn about some old words for munching while polishing off those potato chips? Some older words for nibbling and gnawing are onomatopoeic (like scrunch) and other are scientific-sounding (like commanducate). But they’re all worthy words that deserve another chance to get stuck in the lexical craw.

1. AND 2. CHAMM AND CHANK

Chamm, around since the 1930s, is a predecessor to champ, as in chewing rather than being the champion of the world. Speaking of champing, people and animals have been chanking since the 1500s. A use in Gene Stratton-Porter's 1913 novel Laddie: A True Blue Story described some pigs who “chanked up every peach that fell.”

3. AND 4. DENTICATE AND CHUMP

The rare word denticate has an obvious resemblance to one of the most chew-centric professions, dentistry. A 1799 use in Sporting Magazine locates this word right in the lexicon of chewing: “Masticate, denticate, chump, grind and swallow.” Chump? Yep, even chump has been a word for chewing, as seen in an 1854 use by William Makepeace Thackeray: “Sir Brian reads his letters, and chumps his dry toast.”

5. BEGNAW

The prefix be- just doesn’t make new words the way it used to, but it has a lengthy resume of old-timey terms that can make an lexicon-lover smile. One is begnaw, which Shakespeare used figuratively in Richard III: “The worme of conscience still begnaw thy soule.”

6. AND 7. SCRUNCH AND SCRANCH

Few words sounds as much like their meaning as scrunch. Nobody scrunches when they eat applesauce or soup: This is a noisy word, as indicated by a use in a discussion of West English dialects from 1825: “A person may be said to scrunch an apple or a biscuit, if in eating it he made a noise.” You can also scranch.

8. NATTER

The first meanings of this term refer to wagging the gums in another sense: complaining, nagging, gossiping, and yammering. From there it spread to some other uses of the mouth: gnawing and nibbling. The term appeared in John Dalby’s 1888 book Mayroyd of Mytholm: A Romance of the Fells: “It would continually natter at David's heart.” Since that use was figurative, no need to call the cardiologist.

9. AND 10. COMMANDUCATE AND MANDUCATE

Commanducate, at least as old as the late 1500s, means “to chew thoroughly,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary. On the other hand, manducate can mean chewing in general but sometimes has an-ultra specific meaning: to partake of the Eucharist.

11. MUNGE

A less religious sort of consumption is suggested by munge, which is found in Hugh Kelly’s 1770 comedy A Word to the Wise: “You above, in cake-consuming bow'rs, Who thro' whole Sundays munge away your hours.”

12., 13., AND 14. KNABBLE, KNAPPLE, AND KNAB

Knabbling is nibbling, at least since the 1500s. Like a lot of chew words, this one can be figurative. A use in Gideon Harvey’s 1666 book Morbus Anglicus describes “a bone for every Readers discretion to knabble at.” You can also knapple and knab. Roger L'Estrange’s 1692 book Fables of Aesop contains a line that’s relatable in any century: “I had much rather lie Knabbing of Crusts ... in my Own Little Hole.”

15. CHUMBLE

Around since the early 1800s, chumble is one of many chewing words containing the consonant blend ch. An OED example from 1941 describes the worst nightmare of a clothing store owner: “I can hear the sound of moths chumbling the clothes in that chest.”

16. FLETCHERIZE

All these words have their charms, but none have the back story of fletcherize. A Victorian author named Horace Fletcher was called “The Great Masticator” for advocating a preposterous amount of chewing before swallowing. His chew-happy philosophy was called Fletcherism, and a 1904 use in The Daily Chronicle includes another variation: “The Fletcherites preach the gospel of chewing.” A use from Literary Digest in 1903 explains what must have been a novel term: “It is now proposed to speak of the ‘Fletcherizing’ of food that is thoroughly chewed.” And a use in O. Henry’s 1910 book Strictly Business shows how this term could be used figuratively: “Annette Fletcherized large numbers of romantic novels.” All hail Horace Fletcher: the patron saint of chewing.

New Harry Potter Scrabble Accepts Wizarding Words Like Hogwarts and Dobby

USAopoly
USAopoly

Patronus, Hogwarts, and Dobby may not be words found in the official Scrabble dictionary, but they are very real to Harry Potter fans. Now there's finally a board game that lets players win points using the magical vocabulary made famous by the Harry Potter books and movies. SCRABBLE: World of Harry Potter from USAopoly is a new edition of Scrabble that recognizes characters, place names, spells, and potions from J.K. Rowling's Wizarding World.

Like traditional Scrabble, players use the letter tiles they pick up to spell out words on the board, with different words earning different point values. Any word you can find in an up-to-date Merriam-Webster Dictionary is still fair game, but in this version, terms coined in Harry Potter qualify as well. First and last names, whether they belong to characters (Albus or Dumbledore, for example) or actors from the franchise (Emma or Watson), are playable. You can also spell magical place names (like Hogsmeade), spells (accio), and objects (snitch).

Harry Potter version of Scrabble.
USAopoly

Showing off the depth of your Harry Potter knowledge isn't the only reason to put wizarding words on the board. Magical words are worth bonus points, with players earning more points the longer the word is. SCRABBLE: World of Harry Potter also includes cards with special challenges for players—a feature that can't be found in any other version of the game.

This Harry Potter edition of Scrabble will be available for $30 at Barnes & Noble and other retailers this spring. Until then, there are plenty of Harry Potter-themed games, including wizarding chess, out there for you to play.

Harry Potter version of Scrabble.
USAopoly

Presidents Day vs. President's Day vs. Presidents' Day: Which One Is It?

iStock
iStock

Happy Presidents’ Day! Or is it President’s Day? Or Presidents Day? What you call the national holiday depends on where you are, who you’re honoring, and how you think we’re celebrating.

Saying "President’s Day" implies that the day belongs to a singular president, such as George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, whose birthdays are the basis for the holiday. On the other hand, referring to it as "Presidents’ Day" means that the day belongs to all of the presidents—that it’s their day collectively. Finally, calling the day "Presidents Day"—plural with no apostrophe—would indicate that we’re honoring all POTUSes past and present (yes, even Andrew Johnson), but that no one president actually owns the day.

You would think that in the 140 years since "Washington’s Birthday" was declared a holiday in 1879, someone would have officially declared a way to spell the day. But in fact, even the White House itself hasn’t chosen a single variation for its style guide. They spelled it “President’s Day” here and “Presidents’ Day” here.


Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Maybe that indecision comes from the fact that Presidents Day isn’t even a federal holiday. The federal holiday is technically still called “Washington’s Birthday,” and states can choose to call it whatever they want. Some states, like Iowa, don’t officially acknowledge the day at all. And the location of the punctuation mark is a moot point when individual states choose to call it something else entirely, like “George Washington’s Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day” in Arkansas, or “Birthdays of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson” in Alabama. (Alabama loves to split birthday celebrations, by the way; the third Monday in January celebrates both Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert E. Lee.)

You can look to official grammar sources to declare the right way, but even they don’t agree. The AP Stylebook prefers “Presidents Day,” while Chicago Style uses “Presidents’ Day.”

The bottom line: There’s no rhyme or reason to any of it. Go with what feels right. And even then, if you’re in one of those states that has chosen to spell it “President’s Day”—Washington, for example—and you use one of the grammar book stylings instead, you’re still technically wrong.

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