Saturday, May 2, 2009
ENGLISH FOR THE CLEVER - SCRUMPTIOUS
The first citation we have for the word SCRUMPTIOUS is said by Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary to be from 1830.
The Oxford English Dictionary points to 1836 and says it’s an American invention.
One of the more succinct definitions of scrumptious is “delicious” and most dictionaries say scrumptious usually refers to food.
While both Merriam Webster and The American Heritage Dictionary feel that scrumptious may have evolved from sumptuous, the OED has another theory.
Evidently there was an earlier word scrumptious called by the OED “dialectal” and it meant almost the opposite of “delicious.”
Our problem here is that since the OED considered this word non-standard English and part of a dialect, they didn’t actually include the earlier scrumptious as an entry. Instead they just offhandedly referred to it in the etymology of our word scrumptious.
That earlier scrumptious was a word applied to people not food, and it didn’t mean “attractive,” but “unattractive”—in fact “stingy” and “hard to please.”
Scrumptious is thought to be related to the word scrimp. So what happened?
The speculation is that the word scrumptious first referred to people who kept good things for themselves, and then scrumptious was transferred to the good things those people were hording.
Whatever they were hording must have been attractive so something that was scrumptious became something particularly attractive.
I looked at several trending tools to see if the use of the word scrumptious was on the rise or in decline. The data is mixed with Google trends on a gentle climb and Facebook lexicon showing a mild falling off.
The thing that did strike me was that although everyone seems to agree that this word originated in the United States, it is now more frequently used in England, Ireland, and Australia than it is in the US.
Plus, of all places there seem to be twice as many scrumptious users in Singapore that the US.