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Tuck in

Posted by Victoria S Dennis on September 22, 2007

In Reply to: Tuck in posted by RRC on September 22, 2007

: : An American colleague recently asked me what the phrase "tucking in" meant (in the context eating; he was familiar with the "tucking someone into bed" meaning). Although I was able to tell him, it got me wondering as to how and where the phrase originated.

: : I hadn't really considered that it was probably a very English term; for anyone unfamiliar with it, it means to eat something - usually with great enthusiasm.

: : Does anyone have any ideas as to the origin of the phrase?

: : I suspect - but have no evidence - that its related to the 17th - 19th century item of women's clothing, the tucker. (Which I suspect might have also been responsible for the use of the word 'tucker' to mean food.)

: You are tucking the food into your mouth just as you tuck your shirttail into your pants. That may be too obvious.
: The clothing item is lace worn around the neck. Is the relationship bib-like or is it tucked into the collar perhaps?

The Oxford English Dictionary also vouches for the idea that if you "put away" food heartily you are "tucking it in". I don't think there possibly can be any connection with the 18th-19th century tucker, which was a straight strip of lace or muslin tucked into the top of a low-cut woman's dress to reduce the amount of decolletage visible - for food to get anywhere near a woman's tucker, she'd have to splash her meal all over herself! But as "tuck in" is first recorded from 1810, and the Australian use of "tucker" to mean "rations, food" dates from the 1850s, it's quite possible that Aussie "tucker" was "what you tuck into". (VSD)