My grandmother uses the term batchy to refer to food and drink with tastes that young palates won’t appreciate. For example:

“Nana, can I try some coffee?”

“No, dear. You don’t want that. It’s batchy.

If you ask her, she just says it’s a word and it means what it means. I can’t find a definition online that matches her usage.

Is anyone familiar with this term? Where does it come from?

I’m assuming it’s regional. I’m hoping it’s not specific to a (truly) singular old woman.

  • Was Nana a stoner of French descent? – TRomano Jan 27 '15 at 22:09
  • I would assume that it was referring to "batch" and maybe implied "bad batch". Probably nowhere near the "proper" meaning. – Hot Licks Jan 27 '15 at 22:37
  • Where is she from/where does she live? – mkennedy Jan 28 '15 at 0:25
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    @mkennedy She's lived in Indiana and Colorado. – Tyler James Young Jan 28 '15 at 14:31
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    @Phil TRomano has it in a French-English dictionary from 1906 with the same meaning in his comment above. I share your doubts that this is linked at all. She has no tie to French (or marijuana for that matter, despite ongoing residence in Colorado). – Tyler James Young Jan 28 '15 at 16:12

This term was used in my mother's family to describe to children anything that is nasty. Most often it was used if an infant or toddler wanted to put an interesting object in their mouth. Usually used by the women, and with an exaggerated facial expression to convey tasting something awful.

Her family was a combination of German, Scottish, Irish, and Native American from the Allegheny Mountain area of Pennsylvania.

Synonyms and usage from The Urban Dictionary:

batchy - adj., bummy, raggedy: Look at that batchy dude across the street.

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  • Pennsylvania seems to be the common thread here. I believe we've cracked it! – Tyler James Young Feb 21 '19 at 22:51

Jonathon Green, The Dictionary of Contemporary Slang (1984), has this brief entry for batchy:

batchy a. silly, stupid [Alan] Sillitoe[, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1959)].

Paul Beale, Partridge's Concise Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English (1989), has this:

batchy. Silly, mad: Army, C.19–20; RN, since ca. 1910; thence to th RAF, who gave it to the (then) Fg. Off. R.L.R. 'Batchy' Atcherley: as a member of the Schneider Trophy team, he broke the existing air-speed record in 1929.

So if your grandmother grew up in a Navy or Air Force family, she might have picked up the term there. Batchy also appears in Thomas Lyell, Slang, Phrase, and Idiom in Colloquial English and Their Use (1931):

Batchy : (W) mad, silly, (F) "Leave him alone and pay no attention. He's quite batchy, but perfectly harmless."

Alan Munslow & Rober Rosenstone Experiments in Rethinking History (2004) compares batchy to other "mad"-related terms as follows:

The following adjectives mean "mad" in some degree or other. Batchy is mad, or merely silly; etymology extremely doubtful. Batty almost certainly (batchy just possibly) comes from bats in the belfry, and the rhyming scatty is related to the Derbyshire scattle (easily frightened) and the obsolete Yorkshire scatterling (a heedless person); both batty and scatty mean quite mad. ...

One of the earliest related instances of batchy in a Google Books search is from Frank Bullen, The Cruise of the "Cachalot": Round the World After Sperm Whales (1899):

Mr. Cruce, the second mate, had got a whale and was doing his best to kill it; but he was severely handicapped by his crew, or rather had been, for two of them were now incapable of either good or harm. They had gone quite "batchy" with fright, requiring a not too gentle application of the tiller to their heads in order to keep them quiet. The remedy, if rough, was effectual, for "the subsequent proceedings interested them no more."

Alan Bennett uses the term in his memoir, Telling Tales (2000) [snippet]:

the cause of arthritis and has written telling them to abandon their research and just cut off the feet of their socks. Now he daily expects a reply in which they make over to him their entire endowment.

'He's batchy,' says Dad, meaning he's crazy but, as a child, I don't think Uncle Norris's ideas are particularly mad or even eccentric;

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    This meaning is all I was able to find, but doesn't match up. She isn't saying that the person is batchy (which sure sounds like "bat-shit", which is interesting to me), she's saying the coffee itself is batchy. – Tyler James Young Jan 28 '15 at 14:35
  • @Tyler James Young: I didn't realize that your grandmother was from the United States.The coverage of batchy that I provided comes from British English sources only; I couldn't find anything on the term in U.S. slang references. I'll leave my answer up in case someone is interested in the UK use of the term, but I'm afraid it isn't at all helpful to your situation. – Sven Yargs Jan 28 '15 at 17:13

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