stump (It stumps me)

Discuss word origins and meanings.

stump (It stumps me)

Post by Archived Topic » Mon Oct 11, 2004 10:20 pm

The word, 'stump' when perplexity is its result is what we are interested in. I am stumped as to the origin of its use in this fashion.

Sam
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[h]Posted - 07 Nov 2007 : 23:02:58[/h]Any one know the origin of the verb stump in the folloewing sense. 20: to nonplus, embarrass, or render completely at a loss.

paulwiggins
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stump (It stumps me)

Post by Archived Reply » Mon Oct 11, 2004 10:49 pm

Sam, It’s all in the trees. To be STUMPED for ‘to be baffled’ has its origins in the stumps that American settlers had to pull from the earth after felling trees—some stumps were so big and deep-rooted they perplexed the pioneers. The expression was first recorded in 1812: “John bull was a little stumped when he saw [Brother] Jonathan’s challenge.” (Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins)
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Post by Archived Reply » Mon Oct 11, 2004 11:03 pm

One story that I have read/heard is that when the American pioneers were cutting their way through forests, some of their wagons would get hung up on a stump and could go neither back nor forward; ergo, "stumped."

Leif, WA, USA
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Post by Archived Reply » Tue Oct 12, 2004 12:29 am

.. never let it be said that I would question the infallible sources of Ken .. BUT .. if you ask any person who is from an English heritage background where cricket is played you would be told that "being stumped", ie "baffled" is a reference to how a bowler, in particular a spin bowler, baffles a batsmen to have him stumped by the wicketkeeper .. but that is irrelevant as cricket is hardly the root of any US saying .. and it must be a US saying, mustn't it ??
Wizard of Oz, Australia. 10/11/03
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Post by Archived Reply » Tue Oct 12, 2004 12:44 am

Wiz, I hate to tell you, but a source I always consult when looking for a slang expression is Eric Partridge’s (1894-1979) A Dictionary of Slang. British scholar Eric Partridge, considered by people interested in this sort of thing to be the greatest slang lexicographer of the 20th century, spent most of his life amassing what is now in the abovementioned 1400 page tome. Partridge was born and schooled in New Zealand before emigrating to England where he studied at Oxford and spent the next 58 years of his life. So I assume you MIGHT consider him as “being a person from an English heritage where cricket is played.”

If one checks under STUMPED, in Partridge’s work, which I did, you will find that it says “see ‘stump’ verb (2). Looking under ‘stump’ verb (2) you will see: “To beggar, ruin: dialect (1828) >, by 1830, slang. Especially in passive, to be penniless. . . . . from ‘stump,’ to truncate, or perhaps from cricket.” Now Sam’s question was, “The word, 'stump' when perplexity is its result is what we are interested in.” So, I think we agree that we are talking about baffled. Although I do see the word cricket mentioned in passing, it is in relation to ‘beggar, ruin, penniless’ – NOTHING ABOUT BAFFLED.

So Wiz, where do you propose I look for non-American bias? Perhaps the OED. Well, it happens that is another source I usually check when there is a chance an expression might appear there. And here’s what that “American front organization” had to say:

New Shorter Oxford English Dictinoary:

STUMP: 5) verb transitive: Cricket. Especially of a wicket-keeper: put (a batsman) out by dislodging a bail or knocking down a stump with the ball held in the hand, while the batsman is out of the crease. mid-18th century. 12) verb transitive: Cause to be at a loss; confront with an insuperable difficulty; baffle, puzzle. Frequently as “stumped.’ Originally U.S., early 19th century. [[and we don’t play much cricket over here – never did!]]
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Now Wiz, I don’t doubt that if you meet some Aussie bloke (or other person of ‘English heritage’) in a bar, they will immediately know that STUMPED is the epitome of British slang for baffled – and it must be a British saying, of course, which had its origin in cricket – but don’t think that the rest of the world must humor you in your paranoia with chauvinistic interpretations of etymology (<:). If, however, you can somehow twist what you have read above, which are my sources of information – ‘shabby’ and biased as they may be – to mean that ‘stumped’ is a British expression, meaning baffled, with cricket as its root, please let me know. Personally, I don’t harbor any nationalistic prejudice about word and phrase national origins – I’m cool with whatever! Don’t know why I waste my time refuting the ridiculous things you say, Wiz – but I guess it’s kind of fun to beat up on nonsense. (&lt)

Your buddy,

Ken G – November 9, 2003
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Post by Archived Reply » Tue Oct 12, 2004 12:58 am

An international slanging match! I'd open a book, but Ken's got them all. What stumps me is how the Aussies manage to sledge on the cricket pitch while it's still midsummer.
And who cares who coined what - English itself is the most glorious compote of borrowings, evolutions, refinements - and that's part of the reason why it's so much fun.
Edwin, the Roman Colonies
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Post by Ken Greenwald » Thu Nov 08, 2007 7:14 am

[I’ve combined the newer discussion with the earlier one on the same subject -- Forum Moderator]
[h] Posted - 07 Nov 2007 : 23:43:15[/h] My guess -- and it is no more than that -- is that it derives from the game of cricket, specifically in relation to the situation in which the batman is dismissed through the bails being dislodged with the ball while the batsman is out of the crease, but is not running. Hence to be stumped in the figurative sense you are inquiring about would involve a sudden and disadvantageous change in the situation of the person being embarrassed, nonplussed or being rendered at a loss.

Erik_Kowal

[h] Posted - 07 Nov 2007 : 23:49:06 Show Profile[/h] It comes from the German Stumpf which means, among other things, dull and obtuse. If you stump somebody in the sense you intend, then I suppose you bring out their dull, obtuse side.

Big Squirrel

[h] Posted - 08 Nov 2007 : 04:12:23[/h] Much obliged. It dawned on me this morning that I had been making cultural assumptions about the origin.

paulwiggins

[h] Posted - 08 Nov 2007 : 04:31:20[/h] Neither the supposition that Mark put forward, nor mine, is definitive. Perhaps someone else will be able to present some hard evidence to help clarify the origin of the expression.

Erik_Kowal

Here’s what the Oxford English Dictionary offered up on 'stump':

STUMPER noun: Something (e.g. a question, a task imposed, a reply) that ‘stumps’ one; a poser.
<1807 “They happened to run their heads full butt against a new reading. Now this was a STUMPER.”—‘Salmagundi’ (New York), 20 March, page 121>

<1833 I'm afraid we'll git a stumper..one of these days, that will nock us all into kindlin-wood.”—‘Letters of J. Downing (1835)’ (Seba Smith), xxii. page 126>

<1872 “The American . . . speaks of a conclusive argument, or a difficult problem: ‘That is a STUMPER.’”—‘Americanisms’ by Schele de Vere, page 187>

<1899 “We always noticed, at arithmetic times, that Browne, if he got a stumper, would put up the lid of his private desk and hide behind it.”—‘ The Human Boy’ by E. Phillpotts, vi. page 137>
STUMP verb: (originally U.S.): To cause to be at a loss; to confront with an insuperable difficulty; to nonplus. [The primary reference was probably to the obstruction caused by stumps in ploughing imperfectly cleared land.]
<1833 “My Good Old Friend,—I'm STUMPED. I jest got a letter from the Gineral [etc.].” Ibid. —“ This STUMPS me considerable.”—‘Letters of J. Downing [Seba Smith]’ (1835), page 80 & xxxii. page 218>>

<1840 “Bein' stumpt is a sure mark of a fool. The only folks among us that's ever nonplushed, is them just caught in the woods.”—‘The Sayings and Doings of Samuel Slick of Slickville’(1848) by Haliburton, Series III. xvi, page 132>

<1842 “He had been amazed or, to use a Western phrase, he had been ‘stumped’ at the position occupied within these last few days by [etc.].”—‘Congressional Globe,’ 29 January, page 183/1>

<1854 “That beastly Euclid altogether STUMPS me.”—‘Verdant Green’ by C. Bede, II. xi>

Ken – November 7, 2007
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stump (It stumps me)

Post by gdwdwrkr » Thu Nov 08, 2007 9:48 am

Trees-harvesters often leave 4' of stump so that a bulldozer can come along and leverage it out. Cut it too short and they'll be stumped.
That is my take on it..though I'm as dum as a trout bitin on a rubber cricket.

The 1840 "nonplushed" reminds me of "The Velveteen Rabbit". Samuel Slick of Slickville worked for Haliburton way back then...
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Post by trolley » Thu Nov 08, 2007 4:04 pm

There is also the sense of “coming up hard against something” or being stopped short by striking something that doesn’t move. I stumped my toe. While not very baffling (unless you consider how the Hell the coffee table could have moved in the middle of the night), there could be a connection there.
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stump (It stumps me)

Post by gdwdwrkr » Thu Nov 08, 2007 4:34 pm

Incites flung shui.

I stumped my little finger on a "skil" saw.
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stump (It stumps me)

Post by Wizard of Oz » Thu Nov 08, 2007 4:34 pm

.. trolley Downunder we would say stubbed his toe .. rather than stumped ..

WoZ on tour 08/11/07
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stump (It stumps me)

Post by Bobinwales » Thu Nov 08, 2007 5:24 pm

We stub our toes in the UK as well
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stump (It stumps me)

Post by trolley » Thu Nov 08, 2007 6:13 pm

We stub ours, as well. I’m sure I have heard, read (dreamt?) of other people “stumping” theirs, without the aid of power-tools. Stub and stump must, at least, be distant cousins.
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stump (It stumps me)

Post by gdwdwrkr » Thu Nov 08, 2007 7:27 pm

We stove our fingers on basketballs.
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stump (It stumps me)

Post by Ken Greenwald » Fri Nov 09, 2007 9:42 pm

John, I’ve only STUBBED MY TOE, but you are right about some people STUMPING THEIR TOES. And although the two are listed as synonyms in this sense, I didn’t find any etymological relationship between the them. STUMP, as in STUMP ONE’S TOE, is the older of the two, first appearing in Noah Webster’s dictionary of 1828. STUB as in STUB ONE’S TOE first appeared in print in Bartlett’s Dictionary of Americanisms in 1848:

STUMP (U.S. colloquial) To strike (the toe) unintentionally against a stone or something fixed: = stub
<1828 “STUMP: To strike any thing fixed and hard with the toe. [Vulgar]”—‘An American Dictionary of the English Language’ by Noah Webster>

<1837 “. . .Jonathan STUMPED HIS TOE and fell to the ground, and before the old man could ‘take up,’ he stumbled over Jonathan, and fell sprawling in a mud hole.”—‘Huron Reflector’ (Norwalk, Ohio), 25 July, page 4>

<1857 “Like the boy that STUMPED HIS TOE . . . it hurt too bad to laugh.”—said by Lincoln in ‘Life of Abraham Lincoln’ (1927) by H. Binns, page 181>

<1876 “. . .he had, in time, explored the realms of knowledge to their fullest frontier, and yet when he STUMPED HIS TOE getting out of a bath-tub, no man could skip round on one leg more grotesquely or howl louder than he could.’—‘Reno Evening Gazette’ (Nevada), 13 May, page 2>

<1891 “Mus' be powerful sorrowful ter set at home an’ shed tears lest he mought her STUMPED HIS TOE on the road.”—“Harper’s Magazine,” February, page 364/2>

<1930 “. . . when Hauver fell he thought he had STUMPED HIS TOE . . . and he did not know he was shot until someone hollered Hauver is shot.”—‘Frederick Post (Maryland), 22 February, page 4>

<1957 “There were eight close ones this time. But all STUMPED THEIR TOE on the word HEN . . . in last Saturday morning’s puzzle.”—‘Lima News’ (Ohio), 28 June, page 1>

<1991 “. . . I thought at first that I had ‘STUMPED MY TOE,’ but it hurt like the dickens and continued to hurt like the dickens until I finally went to see Dr. Hartley, . . . :—‘Deer Park Broadcaster,’ 21 August, page 4>

<2005 “. . . he felt like ‘the boy who stumped his toe. I am too big to cry and too badly hurt to laugh.’”— ‘U.S. News & World Report,’ 21 February>
STUB: In to stub (one's) toe, Also figurativley. Formerly chiefly U.S.
<1848 “‘To STUB ONE’S TOE’, is to strike it against anything in walking or running; an expression often used by boys and others who go barefoot.”—‘Dictionary of Americanisms’ by Bartlett, page 339>

<circa 1850 “When I STUBBED MY TOES.”—Dow, Jr. in ‘Yankee Humanity’ (1853) by Jerdan, page 58>

<1897 “You are rather liable to what Captain Eversfield graphically describes as ‘STUB YOUR TOE’ against lava-like rock.”—‘Travels in West Africa’ by M. Kingsley, page 114>

<1906 “The formation of a virulent ulcer every time a person STUBBED A TOE or barked a shin.”—‘Natives of British Central Africa’ by A. Werner, vi. page 140>

<1957 “At a time when the Middle East has become more of a happy hunting ground for Russians seeking friends and influence than ever before, it is on Turkey that they are always STUBBING THEIR TOE.’—‘Economist,’ 19 October, page 194.1> [[figurative usage]]

<1967 <The senator STUBBED HIS TOE just once, and Overbury has the goods on him.”— When the time comes to peddle them . . . knocking off Burden Day is easy.”—‘Boston Sunday Herald,’ (Show Guide), 7 May, page 17/2>

<1976 “It was a reputable organisation. At least, insofar as it hadn't STUBBED ITS CORPORATE TOES on, or interfered with, anything under the supervision of the superintendent's own bailiwick.”—‘I Know What its Like to Die’ by J. Ross, xix. page 126>

<1991 “Police, the public, local authorities and hospitals are all misusing the London Ambulance Service . . . Emergency ambulances have been dispatched to cases where a 26-year old did not know how to remove his new contact lenses, a patient had been bitten by a stag beetle, a man STUBBED HIS TOE and broke a nail and where a woman complained the strings had come off her tampon . . .”—‘The Independent’ (London), January>

<2007 “After several weeks of on-again, off-again promises of a top-secret briefing on the alleged role of Iranian agents in the nightmarish violence of Iraq, U.S. military officials finally decided to deliver the goods in a secret briefing to reporters in Baghdad-and promptly STUBBED THEIR TOE.”—‘U.S. News & World Report,’ 5 March>
(Oxford English Dictionary and archived sources)
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Ken – November 9, 2007
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