Amy Toffelmire has brought to my attention a post on the Paris Review Daily blog containing the sentence, “Japanese scrolls from the Edo period depict—yes—erumpent, competitive flatulence.”
Erumpent. What a word! Truly le mot juste here, and would we expect any less of the Paris Review? (No, we would not.) It somehow has a sound simultaneously of trumpet and harrumph, with clear notes of erupt and rampant and a toasty little taste of crumpet. And, of course, rump.
So what, exactly, does erumpent mean? We will not need a lexical umpire to resolve this. It is a little-used word and holds true to its Latin roots. The e is the same as in evocative and e pluribus unum; it means ‘out of’. And the rump, of course, does not mean ‘rump’. No no no. Rump is a Germanic word, and this is Latin. In Latin, rumpere means (or meant) ‘burst forth’. In fact, the Latin erumpere, which produced the present participle erumpentem – the source of this word – also produced the past participle eruptus, which gave us our English erupt.
So something that that is erupting could be said to be erumpent. But, really, if you’ve just messily fired off the cork of a bottle of champagne and it’s hosing all over your drapery, would you choose the word erumpent for it? Would it matter how much you paid for the champagne? Or is this word simply too dominated by its sound associations to be fit for anything finer than flatulence?