A fellow translator, Dutch, wanted to know if anyone had a good translation for the Dutch expression ‘de buurt onveilig maken’ which literally means ‘making the neighbourhood unsafe’. Figuratively, it doesn’t so much mean that as… making your presence felt. There were lots of suggestions and of course, I couldn’t resist putting in my tuppence worth so I proposed ‘raising a rumpus’. I don’t know if the colleague used it but there was an interesting response from another translator, presumably American, who said that in US English, it was not a rumpus but a ruckus. Now if there’s one thing that’ll distract me from work, even with pressing deadlines, it’s something like that. My ‘research’ revealed that there was no real consensus on the origin of the word ‘rumpus’ but that it probably came from robustious, meaning boisterous. And that in the early 20th century, the children’s playroom in a house was called the rumpus or romper room. So far, so good. But what about that ‘ruckus’ then? The only thing I could find was that it was probably a combination of rumpus and ruction.
Funnily enough, the little all-in-one with stud fasteners for easy access to nappies is called a romper in Dutch. We used to call it a Babygro!