Tag Archives: gumption

Rambunctious, Rumbustious, and Ramgumptious


I decided to take a look at the origins of rambunctious this morning, but along the way I was distracted by rumbustious and ramgumptious. I hope you’ll forgive me.

Rambunctious (pronunciation here) describes unruly or boisterous behaviour and was used in print from about 1830 in North America. It may have been an adaptation of the British English word rumbustious which had the same meaning and appeared there in the late 1700s as a compounding of robust and boisterous. The OED suggests it may have links to bumptious too.

Whatever the truth, it sounds bumpy and unruly and has stuck in both American and British English ever since. It is the perfect word to describe the lambs in the fields on my daily walk which delight in skipping, butting, and climbing on top of their patient mothers, and yet always stand still when I try to capture their antics in a photo or video.

Rambunctious lambs, not rams (pardon the pun)

Rumbustious isn’t a word we use commonly today. It dates to the late 1700s and includes the prefix rum which was used in a slang sense of good or fine – something I will recall the next time I sip a glass of rum.

Several other words of the same type were coined around the same time, none of which are in use now and yet might be worth revival. A rambumptious person was conceited and self-assertive, a rambuskious one was rough, but the one I love is ramgumptious which combines rambunctious with gumption (which I wrote about back in 2009) to tell us the person is shrewd but also bold and rash – what an amazing combination of personal characteristics.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and rambunctious wordfooling,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

p.s. In other writing news this week – my next word book inspired by this blog, has just been sent off for proof copies. “Words The Sea Gave Us” will be launching later this year. Watch this space!


How’s your gumption?

Some words appeal to a word-fool like myself because they look or sound odd, some because they capture a delightfully specific emotion, experience, or action, and others appeal because of the stories behind them. Today’s word is one that sounds fun. I almost have to stop myself making a silly face when I say it – gumption.

My trusty dictionary defines it as resourcefulness, sense, and shrewdness which are all worthy qualities for anyone to possess. Many would call it common sense and remark that such a sense is all too rare in the modern world. I suspect gumption is just as bountiful as it ever was, I doubt that humanity changes much over the eons, but we can all be beguiled into ignoring our gumption now and again. Any of us who bought property or equity just before the recent crash in financial markets were surely ignoring our gumption and willfully imagining that markets could and would rise for ever and ever.

But the good news is that a skill like gumption can be used to raise yourself back up again, despite such crashes. I read of one man who started a restaurant recently arguing that rents were lower, staff cheaper and easier to hire and he had less competition now too. He also gained plenty of free publicity as a rare good news story. He was a man with gumption.

I visited a new food fair near me yesterday and I think every stall-holder had gumption in bucket-loads. The stalls were smaller than usual, thus providing greater variety of stalls and reducing rents for the vendors. Nearly every stall offered samples (a recognised way to increase sales at these events) and many advertised their other sales locations or services like party-catering, birthday cakes, vegetable delivery schemes, and cookery schools. With each sale they made, they also made a new contact as well as cash. When I left (laden with goodies), the stalls were well on their way to selling out two hours before the end of the fair. It proved to me two things – 1) good products always sell if the pricing is right and 2) the locals wanted to buy a “little luxury” even if they couldn’t manage to fork out on a new car/house/sofa, they knew they could afford some organic bread or homemade ice-cream.

So this week I will challenge myself (and you), to display some of my native gumption. I will look at things from a new angle. I will try to see the simple ways I can improve my writing and my life in general.

Happy writing and reading,