Printable Version
Pronunciation: rêm-shpring-ê Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. Rumspringa is a rite of passage available to Amish youth around the age of 16 when they are allowed to see the world outside the closed Amish community. It ends when the youths return to the community to be baptized into the Amish church or decide to remain outside it. 2. Any break away from a rigid regime of any sort, as to take a rumspringa from a steady diet of pizza.

Notes: I don't usually do words that are never spoken outside a dialect area, but today's Good Word seems to be expanding in its application. The Amish society is a closed one that lives strictly according to the Bible. They only cross over into "English" society when absolutely necessary. No Amish person has ever been arrested in my county in central Pennsylvania, where we still see the occasional horse and carriage drive by our house Saturdays. The business section of my town still has hitching posts for them.

In Play: The Pennsylvania Dutch, which include the Amish, don't speak English like the rest of us: "Since coming back from rumspringa, Fritz can't seem to eat himself full of shoofly pie." Most Amish youths return to the Amish fold, but they are often not the same: "Did the rumspringa make you forget how to outen the lights when you leave the room?" Today's Good Word is now meandering outside its strict meaning and being used in a broader sense: "Bud Light's taking a rumspringa from Sunday night football to watch Downton Abbey tonight."

Word History: Today's Good Word is from Pennsylvania Dutch (= German, from deutsch "German" in German). It is a reduction of German herumspringen or Dutch rondspringen, both meaning "jumping around". It has acquired the sense of "running around" in Pennsylvania Dutch. The German herum is a combination of her "here" + um "around". The words with her are commonly reduced to simply r- in German. The word for "out of here" in today's German, heraus, may be pronounced simply raus. Spring in the sense of "leap" is widespread among the Germanic languages, including English. Springbok is an Afrikaans and Dutch word for the kind of antelope (bok) that often spring up for no apparent reason. (We hope T. J. Shaffer of San Francisco was not taking a rumspringa in submitting today's Good Word; we would like her to suggest more.)

Dr. Goodword,

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