While researching for my dissertation, I encountered the word “trampoosing” in a personal letter by a president of either Harvard or Yale in its early years. He described his veritable door-to-door efforts to raise funds for his university as “trampoosing.” He may also have mentioned rain and muddy streets, because the word has had those connotations since I first read it. I can see him dejectedly garnering few funds while getting wet and weary. Of course the component parts couldn’t suggest much else: tramp and ooze. I added darkness for some reason, possibly believing he worked all day and made his rounds as evening fell.
I like to reintroduce old words into contemporary lexicon, and I toyed with “trampoosing” for a couple years. None of my friends adopted it, and I couldn’t use it with any sincerity. It stood out, as you might suppose. I wrote a decent blues around the word, then let it go. Almost.
Recently, while thinking about my pet word projects (“for ever” and “to-night” and “to-morrow”), I looked for “trampoosing” in Webster’s 1922 International Dictionary. It wasn’t there, but an online search revealed it had been in the 1913 Webster’s dictionary. The meaning—heavy, labored walking. Ah. No rain, no mud.
Only then did it occur to me that the president may have coined the word, maybe in that very letter. It sounds like a personal word, a description of an experience unique to one’s self. Now, I have either to find my notes or resume my research. I don’t want to do the latter. This is one of those intimate times with language—the pleasure of the search and the wonder and the eventual knowing. I wouldn’t let anyone tell me more about “trampoosing.” It’s become mine and has also become, obviously, more story than word.