speed humps

Charles C Doyle cdoyle at UGA.EDU
Mon May 2 13:33:18 UTC 2011

There's a sort of folk game, known to American teenagers during the past few years, called "Speed Bump."  The challenge is to lie in the middle of the road until a car gets very close, then jump or roll out of the way.  The winner is the participant who allows the oncoming car to approach the closest.

It's probably one of those games that exist more in the telling than in the performance--at least as a serious competition.  Sometimes teenagers will boldly lie in a deserted suburban street for a few seconds and call it playing speed bump.

Have we mentioned "play speed bump" as a slang term for 'comit suicide-by-oncoming-car'?


From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] on behalf of Ben Zimmer [bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU]
Sent: Monday, May 02, 2011 8:56 AM

On Mon, May 2, 2011 at 8:00 AM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
> On Sun, May 1, 2011 at 11:31 PM, paul johnson wrote:
> > Doesn't anyone else remember deadmen?
> > Or sleeping policemen
> I can recall hearing the designation "sleeping policeman" only once in my
> life, in NYC in the early 1970s.  It sounded very affected and cumbersome.

For more on the history of "sleeping policemen" (and international
equivalents), see my Language Log post:



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