Dale and Russ, According to The Historical Dictionary of American Slang
the verb HUMP
has 12 different meanings some transitive and some intransitive. Restricting myself to the relevant forms (for Dale’s “I need to start humping”), they say that the above two Merriam-Webster Online
uses of the word are both slang and have been since the 19th century. And I’ve been using HUMP
with these two meanings (and, of course, a few others) since at least high school.
Historical Dictionary of American Slang
verb: To work hard; get busy
<1897 “Grit makes the man, the lack of it the chump; Therefore, young man, take hold, hang on and HUMP.”—‘Chicago Advance,’ 25 February, page 263/1>
<1920 “Keppin’ it going’ll keep me HUMPIN’, see?”—‘In American’ by Weaver, page 30>
<1931 “From now on, your gonna HUMP.”—‘McGinty’ by J. T. Farrell, page 312>
<1936 “But on the whole, everybody was HUMPING.”—‘Old Bunch’ by Levin, page 120>
<1949 “In a week he’ll be making even me HUMP or he’ll be bossing the place.”—‘Shane’ by Schaefer, page 33>
<1956 “You’ll get up a four o’clock in the morning, and you’ll go to bed at nine, and from morning till night you will keep a-HUMPIN’.”—The Girl He Left’ by Hargrove, page 43>
<1973 “I am going to school full-time at Southern Illinois University and, believe me, I really have to HUMP in order to keep up with these kids today.”—‘UFOs’ by Fowler, page 281>
<1987 “The new man is one tough, brave, HUMPING guy.”—‘Macho Man’ by E. Spencer>
verb: Go fast; get moving.
<1864 “General Logan played a trump/Which made the rebels HUMP.”—in ‘University of Missouri Studies, (1940), XV, page 370>
<1889 “Ef you wanter go, you’d better HUMP.”—‘Tramp at Home’ by Meriwether, page 98>
<1935 “Believe me, neighbor, he could HUMP and run.”—in ‘Kansas Historical Quarterly,’ (1939) VIII, page, page 44>
<1971 “HUMPING . . . walking rapidly.”—‘Third Ear’ by H. Roberts
<1989 “I gotta HUMP back and collect a lady lawyer coming in from Pasadena.”—‘Rummies’ by P. Benchley, page 41>
However, as it turns out, some dictionaries (e.g. M-W Online
), think that this intransitive form of HUMP
is Standard English, some think that it is slang (e.g. American Heritage Dictionary
), and some think that it is something called ‘informal English’ (e.g. Random House Unabridged Dictionary
). This ‘informal English’ category is supposedly somewhere between ‘slang’ and Standard English, but I would just throw it in with slang, and in my experience of looking up the same word in several dictionaries, I can tell you that many dictionaries do just that. The Oxford English Dictionary
(and also Encarta
) doesn’t list these intransitive forms at all, and so by exclusion they don’t consider them Standard English. But, the OED
does list many slang forms – so why not these? Got me! However they do list the forms ‘to hump it / yourself / himself’ (sounds dirty)!
American Heritage Dictionary
intransitive verb: 1) Slang. To exert oneself 2) Slang. To hurry
Random House Unabridged Dictionary
verb intransitive: 1) Informal.
To exert oneself; hustle or hurry.
Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary
intransitive verb: 1a) : To exert oneself : Hustle, hurry <will have to hump to get through . . . tomorrow.— Richard Bissell> <keeps humping even with three assistants”— C. E. Lovejoy> < hump along and do your chores—Howard Troyer>. 1b) To move swiftly or at top speed: race <it's moving southeast and humping toward the north Springfield (Massachusetts)—Daily News> <really humping along ahead of that tail wind> Norman Carlisle>
And this all raises the delicate question of at what point, if ever, does a slang word come to be considered Standard English, with the above discrepancies showing that there isn’t always any clear agreement.
James, In the slang phrase BUST / BREAK (ONE’S) HUMP
, the slang word HUMP
is a noun meaning, usually figuratively, ASS
. And to BUST / BREAK (ONE’S) HUMP means 1) To exert (oneself) to exhaustion. 2) To harass, vex, annoy, persecute (someone).
Ken G – August 24, 2006
<1939 “These guys don’t seem to be BREAKIN’THEIR HUMP. Look at ‘em just loafin’ along.” [reference to 1925]—‘One-Way Ticket’ by O’Brien, page 38>
<1953 “If they see the three of us knocking around, they gonna BREAK OUR HUMP.”—‘Rumble’ by Paley, page 17>