Etymology: Ruckus/Rumpus

Rumpus and ruckus and Maurice Sendak…



A friend, in a fundraising email for a summer camp, wrote that the camp’s mission statement contains the line: “To create a youthful ruckus of adventure and spirit where souls are ripened and freedom is discovered.” First of all, that is fantastic, and exactly what all camps should be, rather than the dull monotony of soccer balls and flip turns and missed slap shots that were my lot each summer until I was finally old enough to work. Second of all, I have a general fondness for words that begin with “rump” or “ruck,” e.g. rumpled, rucksack, and my favorite, rumpus, as vividly, roaringly rendered by Maurice Sendak.

Generally, “ruckus” is used to soften the blow of a negative situation, a bar fight, say, or the actions of a small mob of angry youths. Sometimes, it is used as a synonym for “hubbub,” or “fuss,” as in “I don’t see…

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