For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.
The origins of the words lunch and luncheon and the relationship between them are complicated and messy. Real etymologies often are. We know that lunch was used for a lump of bread or cheese over four hundred years ago in English. This seems to have been its main meaning until the early 19th century, when it came to mean the midday meal.
It is also a fact that there was a word nuncheon which meant a light meal in the afternoon, and that this is the probable origin of luncheon and that some people think the end was knocked off luncheon giving lunch, and that the modern use of lunch has nothing to do with the older word meaning a lump. There’s a link here which explains it all:
Daniel Cassidy claimed that the word lunch derives from the Irish word lón, or more specifically from its plural form. This is lónta in the standard language but Cassidy prefers to derive it from the variant lóinte – because this sounds more like lunch.
The word lón is used to mean lunch in modern Irish but its meaning was originally fat or lard, I suppose because people needed to store fat for the winter both as food and lighting fuel. It then came to mean provisions (not exclusively food) and indeed lón cogaidh or armlón mean ammunition in modern Irish. Lón was sometimes used in the plural as lónta or lóinte, but the English etymologies for the English word lunch are far more convincing, even if they are a little complicated and messy compared to the phoney simplicities that were Cassidy’s stock-in-trade.