maunche present

I just love a replete historical dictionary full of quirks and oddities, and by that I mean the Oxford English Dictionary. It is my lexical daily bread, and I would truly be a snake if I were devour its gifts without thanks. A snake? Sure, like this one, from a popular meme of a few years ago:

I think of that snacking snek in particular because the OED has given a gift of a term for just such a greedy ingrate as I would not want to be: maunche present.

This lexeme is not so much of the present, ironically; it is a thing of the past, not seen in the wild in about four centuries. But it is re-presented for us by the OED and so I am regifting it to you. Maunche present is, we are told, “A term of contempt (applied variously) for: a slanderer; a cheat, an impostor; a glutton.” Some of the presented quotations define it as ‘sycophant’.

The guts of it are conveyed by the shape of it. Present means ‘gift’ (which, by the way, is ultimately the same present as in “the present time”; in both cases it’s what’s set before you, from Latin præ ‘before, in front of’ and sens/sent-, present participle of esse, ‘be’). And maunche means… well, the OED says it probably comes from maunge, perhaps influenced by munch, but maunge comes from French manger ‘eat’ and means ‘devour greedily’, while munch refers more to the act and the sound of eating, and is thought to be at least partly imitative (“munch, munch, munch”) – but also partly to come from maunge. So this is feeding back on itself. And with what thanks, hmm?

Anyway, this is your little gift for today. There’s never a shortage of people to whom to apply it, locally and nationally. If you happen to see one, you can mutter under your breath “Maunche present!” Your hearers will likely think you’re saying “much presence” or “Mount Pleasant,” and they might be confused for long enough that you can make yourself absent.

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