When the palm trunks

Report on Facebook today from Sim Aberson (in South Florida) about his “daily constitutional” with his husband, where they encountered:


Copernicia macroglossa, petticoat palm, a very slow-growing species

Sim wrote:

When they eventually trunk, the old fronds produce a beautiful petticoat.

Yes, the noun trunk ‘stem of a tree’, verbed, to yield intransitive trunk ‘(of a tree) produce a trunk’.

For a moment, I thought that Sim had salted the verbing in there just for me to find — he knows my tastes — but then I realized that this is the way palm people talk (Sim and Mike are serious plant guys) — because the verb is a genuinely useful one for growers of palms.

An old story: people go around promiscuously nouning and verbing, occasionally for cleverness (and there’s nothing wrong with that), but usually because in one of their worlds — often a very specialized world — the innovative form is a good thing to have to hand.

A cite from the internet with the V + Prt trunk up, roughly ‘succeed in forming a trunk’:

Ideally, we would like to buy some “trunked up” [Butia] eriospathas [palm trees] that are at least 5 feet tall. (link)

Verbings of various nouns trunk abound. OED2 has two apparent one-shots:

‘to put into a trunk’ (< trunk ‘large box’)

‘(of an elephant) to pick up with the trunk’ (< trunk ‘nose of an elephant’)

Plus, in the draft additions of 1993, the BrE usage:

‘to make (a minor road) into a trunk road; to upgrade and reclassify as a trunk road’ (with cites from 1954, 1971, 1972, and 1983) (< trunk, the beheaded abbreviation of trunk road ‘important main road used for long-distance travel’)

Meanwhile, on my own I unearthed yet another V + Prt combination, trunk up ‘put on swimming / bathing trunks’ (< trunksmen’s shorts, worn especially for swimming or boxing’), as in:

So we went in the house and got trunked up [to go swimming]. (link)

That’s five different verbs trunk, from five different nouns trunk — all found in a few minutes’ time (plus a lot of time to turn this stuff into a posting). There are no doubt more verbs from those nouns; I’m hoping against hope for verbs glossable as ‘rhinectomize, remove the trunk from (an elephant)’ and the reverse ‘restore the trunk to (a rhinectomized elephant)’.  Yes, I know, I know, they wouldn’t come up in conversation very often.

4 Responses to “When the palm trunks”

  1. Karen Schaffer Says:

    Have I mentioned to you that ‘up potting’ seedlings is a thing in the Master Gardener community? As in “We’re going to be up potting today.” No one says ‘potting up’ anymore.

  2. Sim Aberson Says:

    Huh. Hearing the verb ‘trunk’ all the time, it never occurred to me that the usage was in any way remarkable. Interesting!

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