"take a stump"
george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Mon Jan 4 03:26:59 UTC 2010
"This they considered as daring them to it; and "Chauncey's Tigers never took a stump," at it they went. . . .
A Green Hand's First Cruise. . . . quoted in Hudson River Chronicle, January 19, 1841, p. 1, col. 3
This is quoted from a memoir of a American prisoner of war during the War of 1812, a sailor who had been held in a camp in England. The guards fired into a group of the prisoners, who had been playing a bat-and-ball game; the ball was hit over a wall, and not for the first time that day; the guards had been throwing the ball back to the sailors, but this time they would not, and refused to allow a prisoner to retrieve it. There was a disturbance, and the shooting followed.
The OED has:
stump, (noun, #1) 9. Cricket. a. Each of the three (formerly two) upright sticks which, with the bails laid on the top of them, form a wicket.
to draw (the) stumps: to pull up the stumps, as a sign of the discontinuance of play or of the termination of a match or game.
(stump, noun, #3) 2. U.S. colloq. ‘A dare, or challenge to do something difficult or dangerous’ (W. 1911). The earliest appearance is 1871.
If this is connected with the first, then it is a variant of "draw the stumps", but means "to quit or concede defeat".
The second seems more likely by its sense, with "take a stump" meaning "take a dare", but the sentence is in the negative, which isn't appropriate. "Chauncey's Tigers never refused a stump" or "Chauncey's Tigers always took a stump" would fit.
George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much lately.
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
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