Thursday, 29 September 2011

Umbrellas and Bumbershoots


It's a funny thought for an Englishman that the etymological purpose of an umbrella is to keep the sun off you. Umbrella comes from the Latin umbra, or shade, so an umbrella is a little shade, just as a parasol is a protector-against-the-sun, just as a parachute is a protector-against-falling.

An eldritch combination of the above words is bumbershoot - which is an American slang term for an umbrella and an utterly lovely word to say. Basically, if you mess up the word umbrella you're as likely as not to get something along the lines of brolly or bumber. Then, if you notice that an umbrella looks a bit like a parachute you can add the chute onto the end and get bumbershoot, which first appeared in 1896.

The OED has bumbershoot down as originally and chiefly US. However, I intend to import it the moment that the Indian Summer currently hanging over London perishes in October's icy grip.

Damned sunburn

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