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.
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,
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!