Down In The Dumps?

dog down in the dumjps

“I’m feeling a little down in the dumps!”

Whenever someone is feeling gloomy we often refer to that person as being down in the dumps. Have you ever wondered where we get that phrase?

According to the book, Devious Derivations by Hugh Rawson,

It seems logical to assume that the melancholy person who is down in the dumps is, figuratively speaking, in a depression filled with refuse—a sanitary landfill, as the old town dump is called today.

The melancholy dumps and those for refuse are separate words, however. People have been cast down in the former since the early sixteenth century: “What heapes of heauynesse, hathe of late fallen among us alreadye, with whiche some of our poore familye bee fallen into suche dumpes” (Sir Thomas More, A Dialoge of Comforte Against Tribulation, 1529). Captain Francis Grose reported that the word was “jocularly said to be derived from Dumpos, a king of Egypt, who died of melancholy” (A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, 1976). Though the term’s origin is not entirely clear, it is much more likely to have a European than an Egyptian antecedent, coming instead from the Dutch domp, a haze or mist. The Dutch word is cognate to the English damp, which referred to a poisonous vapor or gas before it acquired the present senses of wetness and moisture. The true allusion in down in the dumps, then, is to a person whose mind is in a gloomy fog.

By contrast, the dump that refers to a place for depositing refuse is a comparatively recent innovation. The word first appeared with this meaning in the United States, with the oldest known example coming from the diary of Jacob Hiltzheimer: “Attended the sale of the street dirt at the dumps” (4/10/1784). This form of dump comes from the Middle English dompen, to drop, fall, or plunge, akin to the Norwegian dumpa, to fall with a thud or thump. Like thump this dump may be basically onomatopoenic. In any event, the noun seem to come from the verb; refuse is dumped at a dump. (pp. 68-69.)

The person who is “down in the dumps,” therefore, is one in “heapes of heauynesse” or “heaps of heaviness.” Interestingly, the Apostle Paul refers to this state of emotion in 2 Corinthians 2:1 where it says in the original 1611 publication of the King James Version (KJV), “But I determined this with my selfe, that I would not come againe to you in heauynesse.” In the present King James Version, the verse reads, “But I determined this with myself, that I would not come again to you in heaviness.” The New American Standard Version (NASB) puts it this way: “But I determined this for my own sake, that I would not come to you in sorrow again.”

The apostle goes into further detail to describe the depth of sorrow he felt when he wrote his previous letter to the Corinthian church:

“For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you with many tears; not so that you would be made sorrowful, but that you might know the love which I have especially for you,” (v. 4).

Paul was down in the dumps because he was concerned over some serious moral issues in the church including incest (1 Cor. 5:1-2) and adultery (1 Cor. 6:9). Adding to these situations, there were divisions (1 Cor. 1:10); disorder in worship, and communion, in particular (1 Cor. 11:17- 22); and lawsuits between members including court cases being heard before ungodly judges (1 Cor. 6:1-8). On top of all that, Paul’s apostolic authority and teachings were constantly being criticized and condemned by false teachers (2 Cor. 11:1-11). In fact, although he was publicly challenged on his last visit by a member of the church (2 Cor. 2:5), Paul recommended forgiveness “lest somehow such a one be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow,” (v. 7) .

So, Paul writes not only about the sorrow he had felt after knowing about all their problems (vss. 1, 3) but the temporary sorrow he was putting them through by trying to persuade them to change their ways and get right with the Lord (2 Cor. 13:2). In essence, as he explains, it was actually out of sincere love that he wanted them to be sorrowful for their sins so that they would repent and change for their own good (v. 4). This is the sign of a good leader in the Lord.

From Paul’s experience and all the church difficulties in Corinth, we can expect to be down in the dumps if things are not going well. But at the same time, we can also expect that God will turn those feelings into joy if we handle them with an attitude of love and forgiveness in our heart.

The Apostle Paul concludes this chapter on a positive note:

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things? For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God,” (2:14-17, NASB).

Paul and the other church leaders were speaking with authority from the Lord and his Word. We can take comfort from this whenever we’re down in the dumps. The way we deal with the blues will be determined by whether we look at the inspired Word as something that either condemns us or saves us. We seek a refreshing and encouraging aroma “from life to life.” The present life with all its ups and downs and unpredictability is nothing to be compared to God’s love and the future eternal life to come (Romans 8:38-39; 2 Timothy 4:7-8).

When one is down in the dumps, one is said to be downcast or in despair. When those feelings hit, it is wise to remember what is written in Psalm 43:5, “Why are you in despair [downcast], O my soul? And why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise him. The help [saving acts] of my countenance, and my God.” It also says in, Psalm 42:11, “Why are you in despair [sunk down], O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in [wait for] God, for I shall yet praise him, the help of my countenance, and my God.”

Here are the Heritage Singers singing, “He Is Able,”

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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