I was reading a book written in the UK and a character stated that speaking to her sister made her "feel Humpty". I am not sure what she was feeling, as the rest of the dialogue gave no clue. Can anyone help clarify this?

  • 1
    It's not an idiomatic usage. My guess would be it's a malapropism for feeling uppity (disgruntled, and willing to give voice to one's dissatisfaction), with no particular allusion to Lewis Carroll's Humpty-Dumpty. Or perhaps (another malapropism) she meant she feels dumpy / frumpy (her sister is thinner / more elegant than her). – FumbleFingers Apr 15 '16 at 16:39
  • @FumbleFingers It rhymes with dump, down in the dumps. People do create their own ad hoc idioms to express their ideas, and suit their moods. This one seems fairly obvious, though it could be connected to get, or take the hump which is a fairly well used idiom in Britain, meaning that the person concerned has taken offence at something. He's taken the hump because I complained about his body odour – WS2 Apr 15 '16 at 17:03
  • I've always read "humpty" as meaning something along the lines of "huffy" -- kind of riled up. Certainly might be wrong, but the definition seemed to fit in the dozen or so places I've seen the term. – Hot Licks Apr 15 '16 at 17:21
  • @HotLicks Yes. Like taking the hump. – WS2 Apr 15 '16 at 17:25
  • @WS2: Looks like that's another one of those oddball (regional?) variations. I've never heard anyone say he's taken the hump. That's a link to the one and only instance in Google Books, whereas there are an estimated 335 instances of the one I know - he's got the hump. But I don't see how you can say This one seems fairly obvious for OP's cited usage. It's a complete one-off with no context, no equivalents in GB, and no "standard" meaning. – FumbleFingers Apr 15 '16 at 17:44

From Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humpty_Dumpty at Origins

"...According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term "humpty dumpty" referred to a drink of brandy boiled with ale in the seventeenth century.[8] The riddle probably exploited, for misdirection, the fact that "humpty dumpty" was also eighteenth-century reduplicative slang for a short and clumsy person.[11] The riddle may depend upon the assumption that a clumsy person falling off a wall might not be irreparably damaged, whereas an egg would be. ..." [my emphasis]

Your meaning could be either short or clumsy depending how well each fits the context of the dialogue.

Taking the idea of reduplicative slang a little further, and as is noted above in the comments, possibly empty.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.