Posted by: cochinblogger | July 31, 2017

Touchings

I was in a bar. Sitting opposite me was a regular with whom I had developed a casual acquaintanceship, amounting to nothing more than a few words exchanged each time we happened to bump into each other at our favorite watering hole. Bars used to get crowded in the evenings (no longer true with the semi-prohibition in force today), and one often had to share the table with strangers — which is how conversations began, sometimes producing a companionship of sorts.

The man opposite me was describing the virtues of the bar we were in, contrasting it with the bar we used to visit before the advent of the semi-prohibition, which restricted most bars to serving nothing stronger than beer. "The touchings here are great!" he exclaimed. I was puzzled. It wasn't a word I was familiar with. He must have read my face, because he elaborated by listing his favorite snacks served in this bar. It was then that I understood what "touchings" meant. Food. Subsequently, I heard others use the word and was able to home in on a more precise meaning: "Light snacks." The precise English equivalent, I suppose, is hors d'oeuvres. "Touchings" is the word below "CLOCK" on the signboard in the photo above.

One of the favorite English words used in Kerala in everyday conversation is "glamor." It is the word tossed teasingly — sometimes even mockingly — at someone who is dressed to kill for the evening. "Glamor" is a right-proper English word; "touchings" is not in the dictionary. I wondered about its etymology. Why "touchings"? Perhaps because they are typically small pieces picked up with the tips of the fingers and deposited in the mouth in one rapid movement; so quick is the passage from plate to mouth that the food is barely touched in the process.

Hence, touchings. If you have a better explanation, I'd like to hear it.

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Responses

  1. I wonder is this formation is related to the word “pickings” at all.

    • I see the connection.

  2. I’ve heard it used in British slang, as in “served with all the touchings”. The phrase has a Cockney feel to it, and may have long since died out.

    If it was Cockney slang, the derivation would be found in a rhyming counterpart: e.g. “apple and pears” meaning “stairs”. Though I can’t think of anything that would work with touchings!

    Interestingly, it’s still cited in the Urban Dictionary:

    https://www.google.co.in/amp/s/www.urbandictionary.com/define.php%3Fterm%3DTouchings%26amp%3Dtrue

    • Fascinating! There’s nothing new under the sun.


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