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.