Bungee cords?

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Sun Mar 10 10:57:32 UTC 2002

So whence "bungee"? With various spellings "bunjie" means "rubber" (also
"rubber eraser" etc.) at least from 1915 [OED]. Somebody speculated
"bunjie" < "bouncy" + "spongy" or so. Another possibility occurs to me:
"rubber" gets its name from an eraser (something which rubs); could
"bunjie" have a similar origin? Surely "eraser" = "expunger"; was the
latter word ever used for "eraser", perhaps in some mangled form ca. 1900
as a trade name?

This of course brings to mind "punji", as in "punji stick/stake" ... even
those who think nothing of bungee-jumping might tend to quail at
punji-jumping. My OED shows "punji" (also "panja", "punge", etc.) from
India or thereabouts in the late 19th Century, "prob. from a Tibeto-Burman
language" ... that's a little broad for my liking .... I would think either
a much smaller language family could be named or this is all smoke .... If
such a broad casual ascription is permissible, why not try "prob. from an
Indo-European language" instead? In particular, why not from English (e.g.,
< "punch" with 'pidgin' "-ee" suffix)? Or perhaps some language of the Raj
has/had a recognizable cognate of Latin "pungere" on some other basis?

-- Doug Wilson

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