• rumpus •
rêm-pês • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. An uproar, hullabaloo, brouhaha, fracas. 2. A loud, disorderly quarrel.
Notes: My picture of our recently renovated 160-year-old basement brought to Jackie Strauss's mind a rumpus room. A rumpus room was a room for recreation that didn't have to be kept tidy. She was right; the perfect name for our basement. Rumpus is yet another lexical orphan without derivational relatives.
In Play: The first meaning of today's word is usually associated with kids: "What is all the rumpus in here? When I said you could have a party, kids, I didn't mean you could take the house down!" The other meaning is more often associated with adults: "Must we have a rumpus every time I ask you to clean the garage?"
Word History: Rumpus was apparently an attempt to make romp sound more like Latin by combining it with ruckus. The best guess is that ruckus arose from ruction "uprising, disorderly quarrel", a mispronunciation of insurrection. The earliest form of ruction was 'ruction, indicating an omission (see also 'gator, 'coon, 'possum). Romp is also of questionable origins. The best guess here is that it is a mispronunciation of the ramp in rampant. Ramp originally referred to an animal rearing up on the hind legs in a threatening position. This sense is still used in the world of heraldry, as a lion rampant on a gold crest. (Thanks to Stephen Pashkovich for remodeling our basement and to Jacqueline Kravitz Strauss for remembering what it should be called—both without making any rumpus at all.)