I love learning about the origin and history of eexpressions we use, don’t you? One of my favorite places to discover this is The Phrase A Week, and today we’re looking at Like it or Lump It.
Meaning – Said of an unpleasant outcome that one has no choice but to accept – one can either endure it willingly or endure it with suffering.
Origin – Although ‘lump’ is almost always used as a noun rather than a verb, there are
many meanings of the verb form of ‘lump’ to choose from:
– To bet all of one’s money on a single wager (first recorded in the 19th century)
– To make something into a lump (18th century)
– To classify various things as a group, i.e. lump them together (17th century)
‘Lumping’ in the sense of mooching about grumpily may well be of Irish origin and is first recorded in Richard Stanyhurst’s Treatise Describing Irelande, 1577. The Dublin born Stanyhurst risked the wrath of his contemporaries by suggesting that the English rule in Ireland wasn’t the source of all their troubles:
…..the pale was neuer in more florishing estate than when it was wholie English, and neuer in woorsse plight than since it hath infranchised the Irish. But some will saie, that I shew my selfe herein as friuolous.They stand lumping and lowring, fretting and fuming.
People had been ‘lumping it’ for a few hundred years before anyone thought of the phrase ‘like it or lump it’. A play on words between the noun and verb usages of the word lump was what brought it about.
The early uses of the expression refer to things that have lumps in them. The London magazine The Monthly Mirror, 1807, in a piece titled Rules For Punning:
Mrs. …purposely sends a dish of tea to a lady, without sugar, of which she complains.
Mr. …(Handing the sugar basin) – Well, ma’am, if you don’t like it, you may lump it.