Why parachute?

I have been alerted that my use of an uncommon word yesterday may have confused people. The word “bumbershoot” used in yesterday’s article Walter was absolutely appalled that we were proposing to dine al-fresco means simply “umbrella”.

That’s all very well and good you might say but why is it a word for umbrella?

Well despite it’s British English sound it actually comes from America. It first appeared at the end of the 18 hundreds at a time when there tended to be quite flamboyant slang. In fact other slang terms for the umbrella which never took off included “bumbersels” and “umbershoots”.

The word itself is a combination of “umb” from “umbrella” and the “shoot” from “parachute”. Why “parachute”? Well lots of people will tell you that it’s because an umbrella looks like a parachute. Which, I suppose, it kind of does. But more relevant I think is that parachute shares a beginning part with “parasol”. And it’s not inconceivable that in those flamboyant times this connection was something that stuck in their minds.

Incidentally there weren’t any aeroplanes at the time. But parachutes already existed to save you if you fell out of hot air balloons.

That’s all very well and good you might say but what is the story of the umbrella itself?

Well for the answer to that question I would suggest you return tomorrow when, by chance, I will happen to be discussing that very thing.

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