Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Word Wonder -- down in the dumps

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

It seems that sometime during the Middle Ages (about 475-1450 A.D.), people spoke of depression or melancholy as "the dumps." The expression doesn't appear to have been written down in English until 1529, when Sir Thomas More wrote a piece called A Dialoge of Comforte Against Tribulation. In his Dialoge, More said,
What heapes of heauynesse, hathe of late fallen amonge vs already, with whiche some of our poore familye bee fallen into suche dumpes.
Now, More had been the Lord Chancellor of England  until he refused to support King Henry VIII as head of the English Church. For this, he was sent to the Tower of London to await his beheading. Some of his fellow-dissenters were disemboweled and then drawn and quartered, so it was clearly not a good idea to defy the king. During More's year or so in the Tower, he wrote A Dialoge of Comforte Against Tribulation. He and his family would most certainly have been in the dumpes.

In 1592, under much less dire circumstances, Shakespeare used the term in The Taming of the ShrewFirey, shrewish Kate has met Petrucio, and isn't impressed with him as a suitor. Her father comes in and asks:
Why, how now, daughter Katharina! in your dumps?
Fast forward to today, when feeling down in the dumps is no more fun than it was hundreds of years ago. I have no idea if we deal with it any better than our predecessors did, but at least we can take comfort in knowing that being down in the dumps is a normal human state to be in from time to time. So, deal yourself a break. Talk to somebody you trust. Get some exercise and extra rest. If you can, figure out the source of your "dumps" and do what you can about it. You might even find it helps to pick up a good book...A Dialoge of Comforte Against Tribulation and The Taming of the Shrew come to mind.


Anonymous said...

A few days ago I met an acquaintance who was smiling ear to ear and when asked how I was feeling; along with a frownful expression I told him that I felt down. Sensing his acceptance of my state of being we bid one another well thoughts and parted and in that moment I believed that this sense of feeling down would eventually pass. Well two days later that frown has turned upside down and just for today I concede with that smile.

Kate Thompson said...

It's great that you could believe that the down feeling would pass. I find this works for me, too. I've been told, and I agree, that we may not always be able to control what comes into our minds and hearts, but we can always control what we do with it.