Two brand names and a few branching digressions.
Umcka products are derived from the medicinal plant Pelargonium sidoides, a type of geranium native to southern Africa. The brand name comes from a Zulu word for the plant, umckaloabo, which translates to “heavy cough.” According to the Umcka website:
In 1897, Englishman Charles Stevens went to South Africa hoping to cure himself of a respiratory illness. While there, an African tribal healer gave him a remedy made from Pelargonium sidoides roots (a plant native to the coastal regions of South Africa). Fully recovered, Stevens brought the remedy back to England where it became popular as Stevens’ Consumption Cure.
After excursions through Switzerland and homeopathy, Umcka came to American drugstore shelves as a sub-brand of Nature’s Way.
Umpqua Bank (“The World’s Greatest Bank”).
Today the bank has branches along the Pacific coast between San Francisco and Seattle. Umpqua Bank was founded (as South Umpqua State Bank) in 1953 in Centerville, Oregon. According to a Wikipedia entry, the bank’s founders were “a group of people working in the timber-logging business who wanted to create a means for their loggers to cash their payroll checks.” Earlier this week, the bank’s parent company, Umpqua Holdings Corporation, approved a merger with Sterling Financial Corporation of Spokane.
Umpqua is the Native name for several tribes that live in present-day south-central Oregon; the word has been variously translated as “thundering waters,” “across the waters,” and “satisfied.” It’s an unusual name for a bank—and Umpqua presents itself as an out-of-the-ordinary financial institution—but not an unusual word in its place of origin: southern Oregon is home to the Umpqua River, the Umpqua National Forest, Umpqua Community College, Umpqua Dairy, and Umpqua Transit (“UTrans”). The umpqua.com domain is owned by Umpqua Feather Merchants, which makes fly-fishing ties.
Umpty: a word meaning “of an indefinite number.” The OED calls it “a fanciful verbal representation of the dash (—) in Morse code,” and dates it back to 1905. But a World Wide Words entry (under “Weird Words”) found much earlier citations “in which it was a nonsense syllable in poetry, for example as umpty-tumpty-tiddle-dee.” The earliest WWW citation is from 1884. WWW also mentions a more recent British expression, “give it some umpty,” (“an encouragement to effort”).
Iddy-umpty is early 20th-century military slang for Morse code. (Likewise, “umpteen” is believed to have originated among soldiers in World War I.) I found this in a post on the Virtual Linguist blog:
Troops were apparently taught to recognise whether a dot or a dash was being transmitted by the sound of the machine. A dot made an 'iddy' sound and a dash sounded like 'umpty'.
Iddy Umpty card game from 1920: “Quickly teaches you to read Morse.” Source: Board Game Geek.
A.A. Milne (yes, the author of Winnie-the-Pooh) used “umpty-iddy-umpty” and its variations in a passage about Morse code in his 1921 short story “The Red House Murder,” published in Everybody’s Magazine.
Um… by Michael Erard (2007).
From the website:
Covering a vast array of verbal blunders, from Spoonerisms to malapropisms to “uh” and “um,” linguist and author Erard creates a unique narrative blend of science, history, pop culture, and politics that gets at what really matter when we speak — and when we listen.