stump (It stumps me)

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stump (It stumps me)

Post by trolley » Fri Nov 09, 2007 10:36 pm

As nouns, they are also very similar. They both have that "left-over" thing going on; the stub of a pencil or a cigar or a used ticket. It seems awfully stump-like to me when you think of it as the part that remains after something has been used, cut, or broken.
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stump (It stumps me)

Post by Erik_Kowal » Sat Nov 10, 2007 5:52 am

I am somewhat sceptical about the OED's relative dating of 'stump' and 'stub' in the sense of 'to accidentally strike one's toe against an object'.

Why, I wonder, does Webster's 1828 citation describe 'stump' as vulgar, by which I assume Webster meant 'not used in polite society'? The implication is that it was either 1) an offensive term for an otherwise inoffensive action, or 2) a corruption of an existing word that was considered by educated people to be the norm when referring to the phenomenon of banging one's toe.

'Stump' might be regarded as offensive in polite society if it had additional sexual or otherwise undesirable connotations. But if it did not, this suggests that Webster perceived it as being a corruption of another, less familiar word (what might today be referred to as an eggcorn), for which the obvious candidate in this case is 'stub'. If this is the case, the fact that the first recorded written occurrence of 'stump' (1828) substantially precedes that of 'stub' (1848) may simply be due to the OED's compilers' failure so far to find earlier written occurrences of 'stub' that actually exist (or existed).

Other circumstantial evidence that points to a problem with the dating is that in both American and British Standard English 'stub' is the established, prevalent usage, not 'stump'. If, as the OED citations suggest, 'stump' had a 20-year head start, why is it not still the standard word, with 'stub' being regarded as the non-standard or dialectal usage instead?

Finally, if 'stub' and 'stump' are such relatively recent terms for this phenomenon -- with both, curiously, also apparently originating in America -- how did people on each side of the Atlantic previously refer to the experience of banging their toes on something, which must surely have been at least as familiar to people then as it is now?
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stump (It stumps me)

Post by Ken Greenwald » Sun Nov 11, 2007 7:28 am

Erik, Very good point. It sure seems as though if the verb usage of STUMP, as in STUMP YOUR TOE, came into existence before the STUB usage, as in STUB YOUR TOE, that STUMP wouldn’t be considered the ‘vulgar’ form. So, I did a bit of looking around and after getting the bright idea of looking up STUB in the selfsame 1828 Webster’s dictionary that the OED told us defined STUMP as the ‘vulgar’ form, I found, voila:

STUB verb transitive 2) To strike the toes against a stump, stone or other fixed object.— ‘An American Dictionary of the English Language’ (1828) by Noah Webster
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So, you were right and it looks like the OED caught the STUMP but missed the STUB and the 20-year head start is erased!

As to how banging one's toe was described before the advent of STUB and STUMP, you got me! I actually did a brief search, checking for old instances of ‘his toe,’ ‘her toe,’ ‘their toes,’ ‘banging, bumping, knocking, . . . toes,’ and came up empty-toed. But they had to have called it something! Sounds like a interesting project for some nut interested in this sort of thing. Actually, I might give it another shot when I have some time. (&lt)
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It is interesting to note how Webster defined ‘vulgar’ in his 1828 edition of Webster's American Dictionary of the English Language:

VULGAR

VULGAR, adj.

1. Pertaining to the common unlettered people; as vulgar life.

2. Used or practiced by common people; as vulgar sports.

3. Vernacular; national.
It might be more useful to the English reader, to write in our vulgar language.

4. Common; used by all classes of people; as the vulgar version of the scriptures.

5. Public; as vulgar report.

6. Mean; rustic; rude; low; unrefined; as vulgar minds; vulgar manners.

7. Consisting of common persons.
In reading an account of a battle, we follow the hero with our whole attention, but seldom reflect on the vulgar heaps of slaughter.

Vulgar fractions, in arithmetic, fractions expressed by a numerator and denominator; thus 2/5.

VULGAR, n. The common people. [It has no plural termination, but has often a plural verb.]
The vulgar imagine the pretender to have been a child imposed on the nation.
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While thumbing though some late 18th and early 19th century books listing so-called ‘vulgar words,’ I was thinking that many might wonder why in the heck some of these words were classified as ‘vulgar.’ Few are corruptions of anything (as far as I could make out) and some don’t sound particularly offensive. But from the above definitions it can be seen that the reason could be simply that it was the language of the common folk, considered crude, considered slang/cant . . . and not quite up to snuff, not quite suited to the standards of the upper crust. For example, in A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue by Francis Grose (1785, 1796) as well as its re-issues (with minor changes) of 1811 (titled Lexicon Balatronicum purportedly by ‘A member of the Whip club’) and 1823 (by Pierce Egan) the following were included (1796 edition):

TO BUDGE: To move or quit one’s station. Don’t budge from hence, stay here.

CURRY: To curry favor; to obtain the favor of a person by coaxing or servility.

TO FLARE: To blaze, shine, or glare.

PEER: To look about, to be circumspect.

WHISKY: A malt spirit much drank in Ireland.

Look like perfectly respectable words to me. But evidently, not at the time!
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Ken – November 10, 2007
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stump (It stumps me)

Post by Erik_Kowal » Sun Nov 11, 2007 8:36 am

Thanks for doing the additional footwork, Ken. It seems to me you now have a cast-iron justification for getting in touch with the OED editors and letting them know you have found a substantially earlier, and authoritative, citation for 'stub' in this sense.

Their omission suggests that they have not trawled through that particular dictionary as a matter of course and made sure its contents were reflected in their word histories. Or perhaps they have, but somehow this usage slipped through the net. Anyway, thanks again for the follow-up.
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stump (It stumps me)

Post by gdwdwrkr » Sun Nov 11, 2007 1:08 pm

Did you run into 'stove' Ken?
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stump (It stumps me)

Post by Tony Farg » Sun Nov 11, 2007 5:12 pm

Meaning squashed? As in "the vessel was stove in"?
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stump (It stumps me)

Post by gdwdwrkr » Sun Nov 11, 2007 5:22 pm

Yes, but more, crumpled axially, as in "the condition of most of my fingers during basketball season, 1970".
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stump (It stumps me)

Post by trolley » Mon Nov 12, 2007 5:23 pm

James, it is the same as "stave in" and refers to the strips of wood that make up a barrel. I guess that staving off an attack is the best defense against getting stove in. On the other hand, coming from stave or staff it could mean getting your skull smashed in by a heavy stick!
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stump (It stumps me)

Post by gdwdwrkr » Mon Nov 12, 2007 5:41 pm

Makes sense. I always picture a stovepipe being crushed lengthwise.
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stump (It stumps me)

Post by McGuiness » Wed Nov 14, 2007 10:46 pm

How about stump being used as someone who " stumps " for a candidate as in promoting their being chosen in an election?
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stump (It stumps me)

Post by Bobinwales » Thu Nov 15, 2007 9:33 am

When we (UK politicians) go knocking doors, and telling people how wonderful we are and why they should vote for us, we are "On the stump".
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stump (It stumps me)

Post by gdwdwrkr » Thu Nov 15, 2007 9:46 am

Stump is to country as soap box is to town?
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stump (It stumps me)

Post by Bobinwales » Thu Nov 15, 2007 3:14 pm

No, the process of conning convincing people that they should vote for you is the stump, town, country or big city.
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