A couple of weeks ago I wrote about philandering South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford's "world wind" travels. But it turns out that Sanford is not the only Republican politician with a proclivity for malapropisms. A couple of days ago I spotted this eggcorn from Alaska's almost-ex-governor, the vociferously beleaguered Sarah Palin, tweeting from her BlackBerry:
Leaving aside the insinuations in that question and the statement that follows it (not to mention the mysterious dangling colon), let's look at thumped-up.
The traditional expression, at whose meaning Ms. Palin was evidently aiming, is trumped-up, which means "fraudulently devised." A related noun, trumpery, means "deceit"—or it did in the mid-15th century, when its use was first recorded. Both words derive from the Old French verb tromper, "to deceive."
Thump, on the other hand, means "to strike hard"; Online Etymology Dictionary says the word is "probably imitative of the sound made by hitting with a heavy object." Related words come not from French but from Germanic languages.
A pro-Palin blog, Conservatives4Palin, provided a wishful translation of their heroine's misuse, asserting without evidence that "thumped-up" is a reference to The Thumpin'—the title of a book about Rahm Emanuel, President Obama's chief of staff. Conservatives4Palin doesn't mention that it was a sheepish George W. Bush who famously said that the 2006 election, in which his party lost the House and almost lost the Senate, "was a thumpin'"—that is, a sound beating.
When I tweeted about Palin's misstatement, calling it an "interesting substitution," I got this reply from journalist John McQuaid (author of a thoughtful blog on science, media, globalization, and politics):
Actually, I like "thumped-up" - vivid. Poss source of confusion: "trumped up" employs an obsolete meaning
He included a link to Answers.com, which notes that the use of trump to mean "devise fraudulently" is "otherwise obsolete." (Trump's other meanings include "surpass" and "a playing card that outranks others.")
It may be otherwise obsolete, but as a modifier for "charges," trumped-up is well known and generally understood, at least in the Lower 48. Thumped-up is colorful but unsupported by etymology or meaning.
"Thumped-up charges" has all the hallmarks of an eggcorn, although it hasn't yet been logged in the Eggcorn Database or Forum. I found 410 Google matches for "thumped-up charges"; the most recent and highest-ranked involve Palin's tweet, but others come from places as far flung as Nepal, Zimbabwe, and the Caribbean.
On The Mudflats, a progressive Alaskan blog, commenters had fun with thumped-up:
I understood “thumped-up” immediately. A common expression here is “Bible thumping” or “Bible thumpers,” used to describe those who enthusiastically, and loudly, rap a Bible held in one hand with four fingertips of the other to reinforce a religious conviction. It’s like saying, “See here? Here? It’s in The Book! It is true!” The longer and louder one thumps, the more the true believers truly believe. Likely this term is in Palin’s vocabulary, and she uses it here to describe the relentless drumming of complainants and bloggers as they tap (thump) their keyboards of false witness to communicate with others of like mind, who pick up the beat and pass it on to persecute the pious. -- Jane in NC
Isn’t that what happened to Bristol?! -- Drew from Lil Ol Texas
I don’t understand what is the big deal about her Tweet. What did she say wrong? Yes, they are thumped up charges. The big mogul is New York is Donald Thump. And when playing cards, your highest card is the thump card. -- Bucfan