89. Rams, ramps, and Ramsbottom
© Bruce Goodman 7 January 2014

Quentin was one of those people who perused, and remembered, every piece of magazine trivia that he’d ever read in a doctor’s waiting room. His brain was packed with minutiae. If he entered one of those television answer-this-question-for-a-million-dollars he’d be a rich man.

And today was his moment! “For eight million dollars,” said the television host,“ speak non-stop for one minute about the syllable ‘ram’ as used in the name Ramsbottom. Remember, if you get it wrong, or falter, or say um or ah just once, you go home with nothing. Starting... NOW!”

Ram, said Quentin, when used in names, is not the word for a male sheep. Ram, when used in words such as Ramsgate, Ramsey, Ramsbottom, and Ramsdale, is in reference to the name of a form of wild garlic. For example, in the name Ramsbottom, the word “bottom” is the bottom of a valley, such as a marsh or a swamp. So Ramsbottom would be the swamp where wild garlic grows. It has nothing at all to do with a sheep’s backside.

In the United States, for example in the Carolinas, they have wild garlic festivals. These are called Ramp Festivals, and one would wonder (would one not?) whether the word “ramp” doesn’t stem from the same root as the British word “ram”. In North Carolina, the ramps are chopped and eaten in such dishes as an omelette. Ramps grow wild, and only above a certain altitude in the mountains. School boys will eat ramps raw, especially if there is a big sports event on television during school hours. The ramps so stink their breath, that the eaters are forbidden to come to school.

“You have just won EIGHT MILLION DOLLARS,” screamed the television compere. Balloons and streamers fell from the studio ceiling. His wife rushed on stage and kissed him like she no longer wanted a divorce.

Quentin indicated a left turn. He turned his car into his driveway and drew to a halt. He loved to play these little flights of fancy in his mind. It relieved the boredom while driving home from work every day in rush-hour traffic.

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