• scrump •
Pronunciation: skrêmp • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb, transitive
Meaning: No, this word is not the past tense of scrimp (though see the Word History) nor the short form of scrumptious (that's scrummy), but a British slang term for filching apples or other fruit from someone else's orchard or garden. Words are seldom so specific in their meaning.
Notes: Today's Good Word is rarely heard outside the UK, yet remains fair game in any English-speaking region. Someone who scrumps is a scrumper, and I would feel comfortable saying that what they bring home from their scrumping is scrumpage. (Others might not.) Wrinkled apples that drop from the tree are squeezed for their juice in parts of England to produce scrumpy, a rather potent apple cider, I gather from our experienced British readers. Because of its association with wrinkles and similarity to crumple and rumple, today's word produced a verb, scrumple "crush, wrinkle".
In Play: This verb is traditionally used in reference to stolen apples, rarely even to other types of fruit: "Research to date has failed to explain why scrumped apples taste better than those bought at market." However, it is safe to expand the reference to anything grown in an orchard or garden: "My garden this year? Between the rodents, birds and scrumping children, I doubt it will return the cost of the seeds."
Word History: Today's Good Word originally referred to a shriveled apple or other fruit via the adjective scrimp "meager, scanty", but may have been used metaphorically to refer to anything with wrinkles. It is probably related to German schrumpfen "to shrink", formerly schrimpfen, suggesting a relationship with English shrimp, though no hard evidence connects them. There is also an ancient use of scram in the sense of "shriveled", as in a scram hand that might be related. So, there are a lot of potential words that might have sired today's Good Word but none are stepping forward. (We are happy that Michael Short stepped forward and suggested this word, which he was surprised to hear in England.)
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