A Levelheaded Lesson From Will Harris: Live Your Life With Gumption!

Posted by Will Harris
Jan 1, 2023 6:00:00 AM

Will Harris gives us the definition of gumption



English speakers have had gumption (the word, that is) since the early 1700s. The term's exact origins aren't known, but its earliest known uses are found in British and especially Scottish dialects (which also include the forms rumblegumption and rumgumption). By the 1860s, American English speakers were also using gumption to imply ambition or tenacity, but it wasn't until the early 1900s that gumption began to appear in English texts as a direct synonym of courage or get-up-and-go.

[guhmp-shuh n] Noun Informal. 
initiative; aggressiveness; resourcefulness:
With his gumption, he'll make a success of himself.
courage; spunk; guts:
It takes gumption to quit a high-paying job.
common sense; shrewdness.

Gumption: If you have gumption, you have guts or grit. People with gumption are determined and full of courage and strength and tenacity.

I grew up in the rural south in the 1960's. I came up believing that the greatest attribute that a kid could possess was to have "gumption." It was great to hear that you were the best athlete on the team, or the prettiest girl in school, or the smartest kid in class.....but, none of these were as complimentary as being regarded as being the kid who had gumption.

This week, I was shocked to learn that neither of my two 30ish-year-old daughters knew what that word meant. Make no mistake, either one of them possesses more gumption than any other 10 people that you know. That makes it even more incredible that they did not know the word.

I started asking other 20ish-year-old employees of White Oak Pastures if they knew what 'gumption' is. I was shocked that none of them had ever heard the word. Not a damn one of them. All of the 40+-year-old employees did.

It is significant that this once cherished human attribute went from being the highest of praise to an unknown word. And shocking that this change was accomplished in one damn generation.

I think that I know how this occurred, and it pisses me off: I think that my generation fell so deeply in love with "political correctness," that we forgot about gumption. It is a tragedy. It is probably the worst tragedy of this era.

I can tell you, from a lifetime of struggle, that it is impossible to be very politically correct if you have much gumption. The two mindsets are in diametrical opposition to each other. My generation surrendered the more noble attribute for the more popular fad. It was one helluva mistake.


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