Number one for English language teachers

Word of the week: Plonk

Type: Reference material

Do you plonk yourself down on the sofa after a long day and crack open some cheap plonk? Only plonkers would miss out on this Word of the week!

Plonk has two basic meanings. As a verb, it means to put something (or someone) down in a careless, heavy or noisy way, as in 'She plonked the shopping bags on the sofa'. It can also be reflexive, as in 'Pete plonked himself in front of the television'. The origin of the word may be onomatopoeic, meaning that it is a representation of the sound of the action in the same way as 'howl', 'buzz' and 'thud'.

Plonk is also a noun. It is used to describe wine of a very poor quality and often collocates with cheap, as in 'a bottle of cheap plonk'. One theory is that the use of plonk to describe bad wine derives from the presence of Australian troops in France during World War I, where they drank large quantities of cheap 'vin blanc' (white wine). Finding the word 'blanc' difficult to pronounce, the Aussie soldiers referred to it as plonk.

The mild term of abuse plonker, meaning ‘a stupid person’ and normally referring to men rather than women, is probably related to the verb plonk. It was widely used as a catchphrase in the British television comedy 'Only Fools and Horses'.

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