Posted by: Jack Henry | April 28, 2020

Editor’s Corner: Pumpknot, Revisited

Hello everyone! Last week, I wrote about the term “pumpknot.” One of you asked where the term came from:

“I just gave myself a ‘pumpknot.’ I don’t know if ‘pump knot’ is even the right term. Heck, I just hit myself in the head by trying to pull a cork from some coconut water thing I bought from Shop N’ Save. Where (does this) term come from?”

I wasn’t sure where the term came from and asked if anyone could help. I had faith in you, and you delivered! About seven of you sent this in, from a Google™ Group conversation:

I had to smile when I saw this. Anyone who has used a hand pump to pump water probably smiled too. When you are sent out to the pump to fetch a bucket of water, you usually pump until it is almost full and then push the handle down one stroke at a time and wait until the water stops to find out what it will take to fill the bucket without overfilling it. When you have it full, the pump handle is in the down position and will spring up when let loose. If you aren’t careful or if some other poor soul (perhaps a brother or sister) isn’t paying attention when you let it loose, it can give you or them quite a lump. Any lump, especially on the head, is known as a knot, hence a "pump knot.”

Happily, one of you confirmed that this was indeed related to pumping water.

When I was growing up in rural Iowa, there were a lot of wells with water pumps. If you pumped water out vigorously, the pump handle would often continue moving up and down even after you let go. I could see a lot of people getting smacked in the head by them, back when they were the only way for people to get water.

But wait, there’s more! Another reader said they always called the goose egg or pumpknot a “pop knot,” most likely a mutation of “pumpknot.”

And finally, the funniest response I received was this comment about the submitter’s original email:

“Pulling the cork from “coconut water” my <butt>! Red or white?

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

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