Yesterday, H.L. Mencken inspired a post on historical NOOB portmanteau word “smog,” and now here’s another one, of a slightly earlier vintage. “Brunch” apparently originated as university slang. The Independent reported in 1895, “Breakfast is ‘brekker’ in the Oxford tongue; when a man makes lunch his first meal of the day it becomes ‘brunch’…” Five years later the word had spread far enough for the Westminster Gazette to use it (in quotation marks) as the punchline of a comic poem: “Perish Scrambling breakfast, formal lunch!/Hardened night-birds fondly cherish/All the subtle charms of ‘brunch’.”
“Brunch” took a while to catch on in the United States. The first American citation in the OED is from 1930; as late as 1939, the New York Times felt the need to put the word in quotes and define it as “the present-day phenomenon of the breakfast-luncheon, or ‘brunch,’ as it is affectionately called.”
That was then, this is now. Ngram Viewer shows that right about the time of the Times article, Americans passed Britons in their use of “brunch” and have stayed comfortably ahead ever since.
What’s more, round about 2000, Americans stole the British “boozy” and came up with the “boozy brunch,” meaning that for a set price, you can have all the mimosas you want.