“That lamb,” Keithie chuckled this morning. “She’s a rummin she is.”
He was watching Louie chomp through a wheel barrow of roses, cut especially for her by his new neighbours who’ve taken to her – well of course they have; she knows what side her bread’s buttered on!
“What is a rummin?” I asked Keithie.
“Somthin’ different…I suppose,” he said after a moments thought.
It occurred to me that Keithie and I regularly trot out phrases with great conviction often with no idea where they came from. For example just last week I told Keithie that the Tasmanian Government’s back slapping over its digital TV success didn’t “cut the mustard” when we still can’t get SBS TV in Swansea!
Not only did Keithie share the spirit of my sentiment but he totally got where I was coming from, even though the phrase was coined from O. Henry’s short story Cabbage and Kings which he penned in 1894 when cut referred to harvesting and mustard was slang for ‘the best’.
But even after we pulled it apart we both drew blanks on how rummin came about. So we Googled it and found out that, in the case of Yorkshire batsman Michael Vaughan, it was an inconvenient truth, ie he was actually born in Manchester.
But two things bothered me about this definition:
- No one’s trying to cover up Louie’s dietary peculiarities – the whole town knows about her penchant for roses.
- Keithie reserves this phrase for women, and only those women he’s fond of.
For example, last week he told me: “Camilla [Swansea’s GP and Keithie’s number one heartthrob] came by this afternoon…she’s a rummin that one!”
The fact that Camilla called in to Keithie’s place on the way home from the clinic wasn’t the point. The point was that she asked him to take a look at a fence in her paddock. Given that half the town asks Keithie to look at their fences from time to time, it was hard to see how this innocent act made Camilla a rummin. Even Keithie wasn’t sure, or wasn’t saying!
Google was fairly light on definitions but eventually we found a site called World Wide Words and discovered that a rum one (remember Aussies shorten everything so rum one = rummin) the term has its roots in the criminal underworld.
That’s when Keithie got really interested.
It turns out that back in the olden days when it all started, the rum part had nothing to do with drink and was positive: rum booze is fine or excellent drink, a rum duke is a handsome man and a rum dab is a dextrous thief (dabs are fingers).
But all that changed in the 1800s when it started to mean odd, strange or peculiar: A rum book was a curious or strange one, a rum customer was a peculiar man or one risky to offend, a rum phiz was an odd face. And it kept evolving so that by the end of the 19th Century rum duke was “a strange, unaccountable person”.
So coming back to present day, I conclude that since Keithie’s so tight lipped about Camilla and her cloak and dagger fence story, and since she doesn’t play cricket, she must have criminal tendencies and we need to look closely at what that fence is keeping in!
As for Louie. She is, without question, “somethin’ different”. If you need proof just look at her life to date:
- She timed her arrival in the world with perfection;
- She won over Wally and had me killing myself to save her life;
- Even the region’s vet went out of his way for her;
- Greg built a house for her! And
- Camilla convinced Keithie to create a retirement village for sheep, which only strengthens the criminal suspicions.