Does scrumping happen outside the UK?
March 5, 2007 4:03 AM   Subscribe

Do cultures outside the UK have a concept of "scrumping"?

In the UK, or maybe even specifically southern England, "scrumping" means to steal apples from someone else's tree or orchard. Sometimes its meaning also seems to include other types of fruit from trees, notably pears. Do any other languages (or English speaking cultures) have words for stealing a specific type of fruit or vegetable?
posted by brighton to Writing & Language (44 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Some in the US are a bit militant about it, but I don't think they have a special word.
posted by caddis at 4:11 AM on March 5, 2007

I can answer "no" for the following English speaking cultures:

- Southern California
- Southern Iowa
- Southwest Missouri
- Grand Rapids Michigan
- Western Washington
- Southern New Hampshire/Northern Massachusetts
posted by DU at 4:12 AM on March 5, 2007

No, I'm not sure there is an equivalent word but, leave it to the activist culture to take the quaint idea of "scrumping" to new heights.

[also, when I was in high school "scrump" meant something completely different...]
posted by wfrgms at 4:13 AM on March 5, 2007

Very interesting. I have never heard a fruit-specific word. This NY Times article talks about stealing avocados (in California) but never mentions a special term.

Can I ask: Do you think the term is apple-specific because the apple is seen as quintessentially English? I mean, does it only seem to be apple-specific because that's mostly what's stolen, just because of the number of apple trees?
posted by veggieboy at 4:17 AM on March 5, 2007

Does that mean Scrumpy Jack Cider is made with stolen apples?
posted by Melsky at 4:41 AM on March 5, 2007

Melsky: Almost. The OED defines 'scrumpy' as 'Rough cider, made from small or unselected apples. Also attrib. in scrumpy cider.' So, not quite stolen apples, but the kind of apples you might get if you could only steal them.
posted by beniamino at 4:51 AM on March 5, 2007

Scrumping in the States is equated with poaching. We use the latter to refer to ill-obtained flora & fauna, though pilfer/ed/ing also crops up in conversation.
posted by Smart Dalek at 4:59 AM on March 5, 2007

In Northeastern PA we didn't have a word for it, save 'theft' of course.

That being said, it was a common issue, and definitely one that people were upset about.
posted by owenkun at 4:59 AM on March 5, 2007

Response by poster: veggieboy - many dictionaries say that "scrumping" can refer to the theft of any fruit from trees. However, I can't find a reference using it in this way other than for apples, and a few for pears. I'd be interested if anyone had any referring to plums, cherries, strawberries, raspberries etc. In addition, although I'm not from the south-west of England where the term originates I think, I can't think of a drink being called "scrumpy" other than apple cider, although I'm sure it wouldn't be difficult to find someone who called perry "scrumpy".

I should add for those who have never heard the term, that "scrumping" does not usually refer to large-scale theft of apples for commercial purposes. It usually conjures up images of a gang of teenage boys climbing over an orchard wall and taking a few apples for lunch on a warm late summer afternoon. In the nineteen thirties.
posted by brighton at 5:02 AM on March 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

I have certainly scrumped in northern England, apples and pears. As Brighton says, to qualify as true scrumping it has to involve climbing an orchard wall.

Other fruit isn't scrumping, for some reason.
posted by sweet mister at 5:10 AM on March 5, 2007

Usufruct means basically this, but without the connotation of illegality. It's derived from Latin "to use fruit," and is the legal doctrine pertaining to the right to use something belonging to another party as long as the property isn't damaged in the process (the classic example being eating apples that have fallen from someone's tree). IANAL
posted by Doofus Magoo at 5:49 AM on March 5, 2007

Best answer: Epleslang is the Norwegian word for stealing apples from other people's trees. Eple = apple, and slang = theft of fruit from a garden.
posted by esilenna at 5:59 AM on March 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh, and by garden I don't mean windfall apples, pears or plums. Slang implies nicking them off the tree, and it only refers to small scale stealing of fruit/berries which are taken for consumption whilst breathlessly giggling about how daring one is ;)
posted by esilenna at 6:04 AM on March 5, 2007

Okay, my friends and I must be messed up, because we have always used the term "scrumping" as a slang word for, uh, copulating. I don't know how it started, but I assumed it was common vernacular for intercourse, possible because it was so close to "humping". Weird... no one else says that?

Needless to say, the title of this question post made me laugh aloud, until I read its contents!
posted by sprocket87 at 6:16 AM on March 5, 2007

A quick poll of Chinese friends didn't come up with any specific verb, and I can't think of ever hearing anything, but there's so many local dialects.
Is there a verb for being unable to give away damsons? That seemed to be the concomitant equal and opposite maintaining the karmic scrumping balance where I grew up.
posted by Abiezer at 6:29 AM on March 5, 2007

A related concept in the U.S. is gleaning, which is what's practiced by those Fallen Fruit people linked above. It means collecting leftover crops from the fields. Although wikipedia says gleaning is often done by humanitarians, the people I know who do it take the produce for their own purposes.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 6:52 AM on March 5, 2007

sprocket87, a friend of mine always used "scrumping" in that way, too.
posted by Xoder at 6:53 AM on March 5, 2007

Well, I got curious about this because apparently there are a couple views of this word.

Check out what Urban Dictionary says about it, it looks like we're both right ;)

1. "getting it on!"

2. "Stealing fruit, especially apples, from someone else's trees. British. It's considered less bad than, say, shoplifting, but adults still disapprove."

3. "The act of stealing apples from a cider orchard. (The word comes from Scrumpy cider) This term cannot be applied to a town or city enviroment. For example you couldn't steal a stereo and call it 'urban scrumping'"

Also, defines "scrump" as "Brit to steal fruit (esp. apples) from trees."

There you have it! Additionally, "scrumping" appears in this sex dictionary, defined as "copulation", as well. So I'm not crazy!
posted by sprocket87 at 7:03 AM on March 5, 2007

I'm Australian and I know the word, but never needed to use it. Apples came from shops where I grew up ;)
posted by different at 7:03 AM on March 5, 2007

I'm with Sprocket on this. I laughed out loud when I read the post title.

Growing up in Northern California (where they have apple trees and the like) scrumping meant "dry humping".

I can only imagine how the meaning expanded from stealing apples to screwing around with your clothes on. But I bet that fence is involved somehow.

This thread kills me.
posted by iamkimiam at 7:10 AM on March 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: There's a word in Korean called 'sul-ly', or 서리. It pretty much means 'to steal', but without the negative connotations of stealing, and as a result is more focused on small-scale theft, mischievous kids stealing a watermelon at night, et cetera. The word still exists in common knowledge, but was more popular a few decades ago, as Korea is much much better off now than it was then.

It's usually applied to watermelons, fruit, thought of (by today's middle-aged adults) as an essential childhood experience. It's that kind of thing.

Also, this thread made me think of this.
posted by suedehead at 8:05 AM on March 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

In 2005, Time called it 'rustling', which is the word I always used to hear as a kid:

The ranchers, meanwhile, remain on the alert. Vows Steve White, a large producer whose groves have been struck: "I will fully prosecute anyone that I catch." Avocado rustling is punishable by up to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.

Could reflect our meat-centric culture as we move to a more vegetarian diet, I suppose.
posted by jamjam at 8:54 AM on March 5, 2007

Funny, I've always just called it stealing.

As in, "Mom, ohmigod, stop stealing those lemons, you're embarrassing me!"
posted by crinklebat at 9:20 AM on March 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

ha. I just remembered where I heard this. In Pete Townshend's incomprehensible (to Americans) lyric to the song 5:15:

Dreadfully sorry/
Apple scrumping./
Born in the war/
Birthday punching.

Now can someone explain what "birthday punching" is?
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:42 AM on March 5, 2007

with the rise of cities, we now have urban scrumping. mainly a sport of students, involving traffic cones, pedestrian signs and other street ephemera.
posted by cardamine at 9:42 AM on March 5, 2007

I grew up in apple country, in California. Our area had once been a mighty exporter of Gravenstein apples; they taste very good and were very popular. Sadly, they also don't ship well, and hardier-but-not-as-good apples came to dominate the market, and the Gravenstein industry collapsed.

So, in the very heart of Apple Country, in a place where they'd been grown for more than fifty years... there was no special word for apple theft. By the time I was of apple-stealing age, nobody even cared anymore anyway, as they were no longer a cash crop. Free, awesome apples for the taking, everywhere. It was nice.
posted by Malor at 9:42 AM on March 5, 2007

Malor, Gravensteins make the best applesauce I have ever tasted, and the cream of that seems to come from really old trees, but most of them probably went down before the 'dozers for the new 'Cider Acres' development.
posted by jamjam at 10:06 AM on March 5, 2007

This is turning into a really great thread! Scrump on, scrumpers!
posted by serazin at 10:56 AM on March 5, 2007

And languagehat (I'm sure you'll be along soon), this is exactly the type of word I was thinking of.

It exists in England because the practice is prevalent in England. US folks don’t use this word because this isn’t a common practice here (possibly because of urbanization) and because here, taking fruit has a different social value (more like outright theft) than in England. Make sense?
posted by serazin at 11:03 AM on March 5, 2007

Best answer: Yes! We do this in Ireland too, expect we call it "progging" apples. (Louth region)

Haven't a clue where the word comes from, unfortunately.
posted by ReiToei at 11:32 AM on March 5, 2007

...and here I thought it was just something Mrs. Scrump and I said at, you know, those particular times.
posted by scrump at 11:50 AM on March 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

I live in New England, and I learned the word/concept from Anne of Green Gables. That's a yes vote from Prince Edward Island, Canada. I didn't know it was region-specific; I thought it was just another uncommon word.

I can't think of a local name for the concept, but I can assure you the practice is alive and well in rural New England.
posted by booksandlibretti at 1:08 PM on March 5, 2007

Now can someone explain what "birthday punching" is?

Its the act of being punched on your birthday. Usually on the arm and usually the numerical equivalent of you year of age.

i.e. If its your 11th birthday, you will receive 11 punches. Usually from each one of your friends.

Ah schooldays....
posted by gergtreble at 1:38 PM on March 5, 2007

Now can someone explain what "birthday punching" is?

I guess that would be the practise of mischievously punching someone on the upper arm on their birthday - one punch for each year. Dunno how common it is, but we used to do it when we were kids. It hurts, but it's done in good fun.
posted by afx237vi at 1:38 PM on March 5, 2007

The title of this post made me laugh insanely. I figured there just had to be more to it than that - for you see, here in Central Florida at least, "scrumping" is a slang term for fornication. A hybrid of "screw" and "hump" is how it was explained to me.
posted by ScarletSpectrum at 3:09 PM on March 5, 2007

Best answer: Swedish has the word "palla", specifically meaning to steal fruit from trees in other people's gardens. It doesn't just apply to apples though.

On a tangent, "knickers" (the golfing variant) go by the name "äppelknyckarbyxor" in slightly old fashioned Swedish. That literally translates to "apple stealer pants", presumably because you could stuff them full of apples that wouldn't fall out through the legs. It's interesting that the English word is so similar, despite having a different origin.
posted by springload at 3:14 PM on March 5, 2007

This really is a fun thread. If I may tangentialize, I think English needs a similar word for otherwise law-abiding folk who think nothing of sampling while grocery shopping. One subset of this group will down a few small items (e.g., grapes, cherries), ostensibly intending to buy the item in bulk. Then there are those people who gobble items mid-aisle, then blithely present the empty wrappers to the cashier.

Shopgrifters? Cheap-throaters?
posted by rob511 at 4:02 PM on March 5, 2007

bin scrumpers? supermarket sullys? Epleslang eaters?
posted by iamkimiam at 4:23 PM on March 5, 2007

There's a word in Korean called 'sul-ly', or 서리. It pretty much means 'to steal', but without the negative connotations of stealing

In Japanse, suri (スリ, pronounced more like su-li) means "pickpocket," as in the person doing it. I wouldn't be surprised if the origins were the same (Chinese)... But there's nothing positive about the Japanese word; it just means what it means.

Been lurking in this thread since yesterday; had no idea such a word existed (both meanings!). And in more than one language! I've learned something new, thanks all.
posted by misozaki at 5:04 PM on March 5, 2007

The Chinese for pickpocket is 扒手 (páshŏu); 扒 is a verb that can mean to gather or rake together, or to scratch (also has a cookery meaning). I'm guessing it's descriptive of the action involved in a bit of light-fingeredness, and AFAIK the compound noun is always negative.
Don't they call supermarket produce-eating 'grazing' back in the UK? That seems to diminish the idea that it's at all theft.
posted by Abiezer at 6:17 PM on March 5, 2007

In Japanse, suri (スリ, pronounced more like su-li) means "pickpocket," as in the person doing it. I wouldn't be surprised if the origins were the same (Chinese)... But there's nothing positive about the Japanese word; it just means what it means.

Hmm, interesting. The Korean word 서리 is actually pronounced more like 'suh-li' (with a short i), than 'sul-ly'. It's a very Japanese-sounding word. I wouldn't be surprised if the slang word was a Korean appropriation of the Japanese word acquired (during the Japanese rule of Korea, perhaps).
posted by suedehead at 11:32 PM on March 5, 2007

As a kid in the mid 60's in southern Michigan, we swiped plenty of fruit, tomatos, and carrots, from gardens around the neighborhood. It was not considered even especially bad, provided it wasn't vandalistic or wholesale.

I can assure everyone reading: scrumped apples are the Best in the World. A place where we swam in a gravel pit was surrounded by fantastic trees of (I think) golden delicious. These apples were so sweet, we would arrive home with sugar dried on our faces!

More recently, one time in upstate New York, I was overwhelmed by the sweet scent of concord grapes, ripe on their vines. I hopped a fence and picked some. And I was 30-something at the time. If caught, i would have pled diminished capacity. The scent is that strong. Sadly, Concords don't seem to sold outside North Ameirca.
posted by Goofyy at 5:25 AM on March 6, 2007

As far as I know, the term for eating stuff in a supermarket is grazing.
posted by dflock at 6:12 PM on March 7, 2007

Fascinating about usufruct, Doofus (er ... I don't mean that the way it sounded). I don't know if there's a word for it in Mosaic law, but the concept is there as well.

Yes, friends, it's true: Deuteronomy 23 sanctions scrumping in a vineyard or field—provided that you don't carry any goods away in a container. The debate has raged about who exactly is allowed to be there in the first place; but once you're there, the principle is this: If the owner denies you handy nourishment and refreshment, he is a greedy swine; but if you attempt to take advantage of him, you are a greedy swine.

Heh. That is to say, Deuteronomy sanctions scrumping, in the OP's sense of the term. Geez, is there anything that isn't a sexual euphemism?
posted by eritain at 4:02 AM on April 10, 2007

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