This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Nuts and Bolts: mumpsimus.


 Mumpsimus: here's a lovely bouncy word to bring joy to your heart.

The word contains an implied sneer, as it happens, but it's not a cruel or nasty one.

Mumpsimus is when someone sticks to an old tradition despite the fact that it's utter and complete rubbish.

You know, like starving a fever. Or having a drink to cure a hangover.

Mumpsimus was originally applied to a misuse of language. For instance, I had a great uncle who always would say
ko-isk instead of kiosk no matter how often he was told.

It wouldn't have mattered so much if he hadn't worked for a telephone company all his life.

Nowadays, however, clinging to any ancient mistake can be called a mumpsimus.

Thing To Cast Off Today: mumpsimus. The first official mumpsimus was, well, mumpsimus. The word seems to have been first used in this sense by Richard Page, but Erasmus was the first to write about it. The word comes from the story of an illiterate priest of the 1500s, who, when saying Mass, instead of saying sumpsimus in the phrase quod in ore sumpsimus 'which we have taken into the mouth' said quod in ore mumpsimus.

When his mistake was pointed out to him, he is reported to have declared: ‘I will not change my old mumpsimus for your new sumpsimus’.

Sumpsimus comes from the Latin word sūmere, which means to pick up.


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