Word of the Month Club: gumption

30250What a lovely word this is to say, the attack of the “g”, the self-satisfied “ump” and the bold closing rush of the “shun”. It’s a bold, tough, dour word, and that’s pretty much what it means.

Common sense, mother wit, shrewdness, says the Shorter Oxford, though in America and probably in Australia it seems to have more the connotation of resourcefulness, drive, the courage to take something (or someone) on.

But did you know was a term used in painting? According to Sir Walter Scott gumption is the art of preparing colours; and in this 1854 dictionary it’s a medium used for preparing colours:

1854 Fairholt Dict. Art, Gumption, this elegant and expressive name is applied to a nostrum much in request by painters in search of the supposed ‘lost medium’ of the old masters..The formula for preparing this medium gives a mixture of drying linseed oil and mastic varnish, which gelatinises; or simple linseed oil and sugar of lead. 1859 Gullick & Timbs Paint. 205 They [various vehicles] are called ‘Meguilps’ from their inventor; one variety receives the name of ‘Gumtion’.



3 thoughts on “Word of the Month Club: gumption

  1. Nice word and it has a lot of character. I wasn’t aware of the painting connotation. I sure would like to know how those old masters mixed their paint. I remember hearing something about the use of egg whites for that.

    1. Yes, I think they did, and crushed stones (lapis lazuli, very expensive) and gold leaf. Then there must have been lots of home-made recipes, just as I suppose there are today.

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