5

In India, at least in the Southern part, there is a phrase "Top tucker" used to compliment/attribute someone for their exceptional qualities/achievements in a colloquial way.

The entry Tucker in OED says:

Noun
1. historical A piece of lace or linen worn in or around the top of a bodice or as an insert at the front of a low-cut dress
[ Early 19th century: derivative of British English slang tuck 'consume food or drink']

2. [mass noun] Australian /NZ informal
Food

Verb
[with object] (usually be tuckered out) North American informal Exhaust; wear out

And etymonline.com points tukere to the origin but I am clueless on what tukere meant/was. Google didn't show up any relevant results...

tucker(n.)
"piece of lace worn around the neck," 1680s, agent noun from tuck (v.). In Middle English tukere was "one who dresses or finishes cloth," hence the surname.

tucker(v.)
"to tire, weary," 1833, New England slang, of uncertain origin, perhaps from >tucked (past participle of tuck (v.)), which had, in reference to dogs, a >slang sense of "exhausted, underfed." Especially with out. Related: >Tuckered; tuckering.

And a search for top tucker brought up an old TV show titled Top Tucker starring a famous comedian portrayed as an ignorant rural youngster who later develops himself to cope up with the cunning environment and hence the title Top Tucker I believe. No other comments/reviews of this show either...

This was all I could get my hands on and I hope this is not off topic or too specific to ask for the origin of this peculiar usage of the phrase. My bets are on tucker which probably was common to indicate rich/high class individuals and this found its way to Indian languages during British colonisation as was the case with many other words commonly used every day...


Updates

I was editing my post to add few (major) points I missed and while I was at it, I thought could compile few (mis?)leads from comments to make it easier for new visitors.

From Comments to the post: Apparently it is also prevalent in parts of US in context of food, features in a famous Australian song(tucker-bag: a bag to carry food) "Waltzing Matilda", "Top tucker" was used in context of exclamation by Charles Hamilton a.k.a Frank Richards in his novels. Also, Tucker Car Corporation headed by Preston Tucker was famous in the US after WWII.

History&Genealogy
Interestingly the Tuckers native to Great Britain, held key positions that influenced India during British East India company and the British Crown, Josiah(protested against the British East India company), Frederick (Top official in Salvation army, worked with several criminal tribes to reform them) , and Henry St George(look into his link) to name a few I suspect would have impacted the Indians.

Last update, a survey for "top tucker" I posted on G+ isn't making any progress :P

Hope this helps.

  • 1
    Pretty sure that "top tucker" is an Australianism for; very good food/meal. – Joe Dark Nov 15 '15 at 16:32
  • Yeah? but google didn't light up those possibilities.... But, OED says something similar but not top tucker... – Andrew Nov 15 '15 at 16:36
  • +1 for a very well researched and well documented question. I agree that you are likely on the right track. It's worth noting that tucker can also mean food, as illustrated in the famous Australian song "Waltzing Matilda" (Wikipedia). But I'm not sure that is going to lead to your answer. – Nonnal Nov 15 '15 at 17:06
  • Thanks @Nonnal, didn't want my first post on EL&U down voted or closed as off-topic... – Andrew Nov 15 '15 at 17:15
  • But, @JoeDark 's version of Top tucker is very good meal, may be it could be used in the context "you're some good stuff". But, I am looking for more than conjectures. – Andrew Nov 15 '15 at 17:22
1

Tucker and especially the expression "best bib and tucker" refer to high society clothes from the 18th century. Tuckers continued to be worn till the late 19th century. The term and the expression may well have entered into contact with the Indian context during the British colonial period. The following extract offers an interesting account on its usage and shows that the reference to food has no connection to clothes:

Best bib and tucker:

  • This term originated not in any figurative sense but literally - both bibs and tuckers were items of women's clothing from the 17th to late 19th centuries.

  • Early bibs were somewhat like modern day bibs, although they weren't specifically used to protect clothes from spilled food as they are now.

  • Tuckers were lace pieces fitted over the bodice, sometimes called 'pinners' or 'modesty pieces'. These were known by the late 17th century and were described by Randle Holme in The Academy of Armory, or a Storehouse of Armory and Blazon, 1688:

    • "A Pinner or Tucker, is a narrow piece of Cloth - which compasseth the top of a Womans Gown about the Neck part."enter image description here
  • Tuckers, as the name suggests, were originally tucked in. Pinners differed by being pinned rather than tucked. Pinner is clearly the precursor of pinafore - originally pin-a-fore, that is, pinned on the front.

    • Incidentally, the blazons of the title of Holme's book gave the name to another form of dress - the blazer. Blazons were the heraldic coats of arms or badges of office worn by the king's messenger. Blazer jackets, which became fashionable in the early 20th century as uniforms for supporters of sports teams and as school uniforms, mimicked the heraldic style. enter image description here
  • 'Best bib and tucker' is an 18th century term, the first known citation of which is from a translation of the Marquis d'Argens' ambitiously titled work New Memoirs establishing a True Knowledge of Mankind, 1747:

    • "The Country-woman minds nothing on Sundays so much as her best Bib and Tucker."
  • Tuckers continued to be worn until the late 19th century. Charlotte Bronte referred to the practice in Jane Eyre, 1847:

    • "Some of the girls have two clean tuckers in the week; the rules limit them to one."

Tucker meaning food:

  • 'Tuck' is a slang term for food which was coined in English public schools in the 19th century; for example, Thomas Hughes' Tom Brown's School Days, 1857:

    • "The Slogger looks rather sodden, as if he didn't take much exercise and ate too much tuck."
  • This migrated to Australia, where it was modified to 'tucker'. Both this meaning of tucker and the women's bib meaning have connections with food and it is tempting to speculate that they are in some way connected. It seems that they aren't. Tucker in the food sense derives from the earlier term 'a tuck-out' (later also 'tuck-in'), which meant 'a hearty meal'. 'Tuck-out' was synonymous with 'blow-out'. Both terms are listed in John Badcock's Slang: A Dictionary of the Turf, 1823:

    • Blow-out - a good dinner will blow-out a man's tripes like any thing; so will a heavy supper. Either, or any other gormandising meal, is also 'a famous tuck-out'.
  • 'Blow-out', which appears to have had quite a crude meaning, is a long way removed from the protective crinoline bibs worn by Jane Austen heroines.

  • Another link that is sometimes made is the possible connection between tucker and tuxedo. The two names sound similar of course and the cummerbund that is usually worn with the formal tuxedo suit is rather like a tucker. There's no foundation to that notion. Tuxedos are named from Tuxedo Park, New York, where they were first worn in 1886.

(The Phrase Finder)

  • 1
    Interesting I couldn't find any of the references you've provided by myself, I'll add the phrase finder to my toolbox, thank you! But there is no concrete evidence of tucker(context of meal) playing a role in India and no evidence of tuckers(neck ware) leading to this phrase/slang... – Andrew Nov 16 '15 at 6:24
  • I found a new lead in this quest, a family of Tuckers from UK who have held dignitary offices in the Indian British empire. I am guessing, Preston Tucker, who conceived the Tucker 48 was in this chain of genealogy(no evidence) and Josiah Tucker popular for his stand against the British East India Company and influenced freedom of the USA – Andrew Nov 16 '15 at 6:33
  • @Andrew - That's another interesting trail, but is there any reference to 'top trucker' being used the way you are suggesting? – user66974 Nov 16 '15 at 8:29
  • none so far... But there are few influential people from the Tucker genealogy who made their marks in India, Henry Tucker (Chairman), Frederick Booth Tucker (Salvation Army) held significant roles in the British East India Company. The latter Tucker worked with Indian tribes and criminology in the early 1900s and has certainly been known to reform a lot of violent Indian castes and tribes. This was as far as I could get... – Andrew Nov 16 '15 at 9:02
  • I am actually referring to the 'Indian usage' reference. – user66974 Nov 16 '15 at 9:31

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.