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In this video clip, amateur reality TV-chef Gordon Ramsay says,

I think you're a plank. [...] Plank means an idiot.

Is this a real definition of plank? Dictionary.com doesn't acknowledge it. Is Gordon Ramsay just calling people a slice of a dead tree?

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    Evan, you know the requirement for research as well as anyone. And that Urban Dictionary is a good place for slang. But for this use of plank, even Oxford has it, albeit fairly low down the list. Also, Gordon Ramsey is conventional about spelling, unlike Gorden Kaye. – Andrew Leach Apr 4 at 15:55
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    Perhaps from "as thick as two short planks", although saying someone is a brick is quite different to the similar simile "as thick as a brick." – Weather Vane Apr 4 at 17:24
  • I can use any word at all to mean "idiot". Observe: "I think you are a daffodil. Daffodil means an idiot." See. – RegDwigнt Apr 5 at 11:59
  • 'Right'? That's a bit judgmental. It sounds weird to Americans, but is common enough BrE. – Mitch Apr 5 at 14:58
  • Ramsey says plank for no reason other than to put down the cook who served salmon on a plank - barely cooked. He is not even inventing a new meaning, but repeating the word plank as though the very repetition defines the garbage he sees the cook to be. Put another way, he says plank with the toxic tongue of you're a wank. – Yosef Baskin Apr 5 at 21:56
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From “15 Ways Of Saying 'Idiot' In Ireland, Ranked In Order Of Stupidity”:

Plank Implying someone's has a thick head, more skull than brain.

From BBC.co.uk

Plank:

Literally, a plank is a piece of wood often used in the construction industry. There's an expression in English 'as thick as two short planks' which is a negative term for someone who's really unintelligent. Don’t ask me why short planks might be thicker than long ones, that's just what we say.

Well, we've been saying that idiots are as thick as two short planks for a long time, but recently this has been shortened and now, if we think someone isn't very bright, we just called them a plank. We might say, 'You'll never guess what he said to her, he's such a plank!'

........

We’ve been using the association with wood in a negative sense for a long time. A wooden actor, is a useless, unable to express emotion. So if someone does something unbelievably silly, you might just quietly say to yourself 'What a plank!'

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Jonathon Green,Chambers Slang Dictionary (2008) has this entry for plank in the relevant sense:

plank n. {S[tandard] E[nglish] plank, both lit.and fig. uses based on ...TWO SHORT PLANKS under THICK AS... adj.} 1 {1960s+} (Aus[tralian]) a surf board. 2 {1980s+} (also plankbrain) a fool. ...

Under the multipart thick as... entry, Green has this:

...two short planks (also thick as eight short planks, ...two bricks) {1970s+} very stupid.

Tony Thorne, The Dictionary of Contemporary Slang (1990) identifies plank in this sense as specific to British English:

plank 1 British a dull-witted person, someone who is as 'thick as two short planks'.

Eric Partridge & Paul Beale, A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, eighth edition (1984) dates the "as thick as two short planks" source language to the early 1950s in this entry for the related adjective planky:

planky. Dull-witted; stupid: evolved. ca. 1955, ex '(as) thick as two short planks': Services'; later, more widespread.

and in this mention in the entry for "thick as ..., as":

The increasing use of thick, adj., in C.20 has produced many variations on Falstaff's simile [in Henry the Fourth, Part 2: "his wit is as thick as Tewksbury mustard"]; a few are: as two short planks: orig. Service' since ca. 1950, > more widespread, and since ca. 1970 giving rise to elliptical planky; ...

So plank in the sense of "dullard" seems to have originated in the 1970s as an offshoot of "as thick as two planks," which arose in the British military services in the early 1950s as a particular instance of the "as thick as" family of similes (all meaning "as dull as") that goes back at least as far as Shakespeare.

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  • So it is primarily British? 'plank' for someone stupid is not something an American would use (not in more recent generations). – Mitch Apr 5 at 14:59
  • @Mitch: Yes, this sense of plank seems to be chiefly or entirely British slang. In US slang of the 1970s, according to Kipfer & Chapman, Dictionary of American Slang, fourth edition (2007), plank came into use as a verb meaning "to have sex" ("origin unknown"). I haven't encountered that usage. – Sven Yargs Apr 5 at 19:03

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