• gumption •
gêmp-shên • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)
Meaning: (Regional) Self-confident willpower, backbone with smartness. This word is a Southern US regionalism for chutzpah, moxie, brashness, or just plain pluck.
Notes: We recently ran a New England word for "gumption", moxie, and thought it only fair to the South to discuss the mostly Southern word for the same human character trait. Today's word comes in a trio with rumgumption and rumblegumption, variants always available should you need more than two syllables to express the same sentiment. This fake Latin noun is accompanied by an equally fake Latin adjective, gumptious, which describes those with gumption.
In Play: As we mentioned in our discussion of moxie, gumption is what they call the same (right) stuff down South: "Porter just didn't have the gumption to ask Maybelline out to the barn dance this weekend." "Well, Porter told me that when he looks into Maybelline's eyes, all his gumption just evaporates into thin air."
Word History: Today's Good Word is one of those mysterious terms the Scots brought over to the US, where it settled in the Southern states. Where the Scots got the word is a mystery. Its original meaning was "common sense", but that slipped a bit in the US to the first meaning above. It is not a reduction of rumgumption or rumblegumption, since these words seem to have entered the language about a half century after gumption. Moreover, rumgumption is made up of the (again, Scottish) adjective rum "good, excellent" + gumption. The original word, whatever it was, clearly has been hammered into the shape of a fake Latin word, with the suffix -tion. It is simply unknown who did that and when.
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