Wednesday, 16 August 2023 15:25

Where did "plonk" come from?

Written by  Bob Campbell MW

OPINON: I encourage students in my wine classes to ask questions.

Most can be answered on the spot. Occasionally I have to do a little research, in which case I learn something as well, which is a bonus.

At a recent course I was asked where the word ‘plonk’ came from. Was it perhaps the noise that a bottle makes when it is plonked down on a wooden table? I had no idea but the Oxford Companion to Wine (Fourth Edition) had the answer: Plonk is a derogatory term for rough wine of dubious quality. The sort of wine you would only drink if that was all there was. This term of Australian slang, which is also widely used in New Zealand, has been naturalised in Britain.

“During the First World War the French vin blanc with its un-English nasal vowels was adapted in various fantastic ways from “Von Blink”, which sounded like a German Officer, to plinketty plonk which suggested the twanging of a banjo. This was shortened to ‘plonk’, which coincidentally was also British soldiers slang for mud.”

Despite its etymology, plonk need not be white and if the word suggests any kind of wine in particular it is cheap, red and servied at a party.

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