A Bumpin’ and a Humpin’


Around five years ago, about the time my first-born reached school age, my wife and I made the decision to leave New York City, join the middle class herd, and move to Northern New Jersey.  Tired of all the wonderful restaurants, great music, breathtaking architecture, and world class art galleries, we yearned for something different; a place where museums double as children’s birthday party spaces and Italian food is as “ethnic” as cuisine gets.

Or maybe we just needed to find an affordable way to provide our kids an education.   Yeah, thinking back on it now, that was it.  It was about education.

NOTE: I did NOT go without a fight.  The upper roadway of the George Washington Bridge still bears the scars of my fingernails as my wife dragged me across the Hudson.

Anyway, not long after landing in the beautifully named “Garden State”  I purchased a car.  It’s suburban New Jersey.   Unless you’re a bird and have wings you need a car to get anywhere.  That, and a duffel bag of quarters for parking.

Because I was again a member of the driving community I started to become more aware of traffic signs.  I remembered several of them from my suburban upbringing.

There was STOP, and YIELD, and SLOW.  ONE WAY, DETOUR, and DEAD END.  KEEP RIGHT, MERGE and CURB YOUR DAMN DOG.   And others – you all probably know what they are.

Then one day I’m speeding through a school zone and I see it.  The SPEED HUMP sign.  In my confusion I almost took out two kids.  Speed HUMP??  Is that right??  Did someone make a mistake??  Isn’t it supposed to be speed BUMP??  Why HUMP??  And isn’t that just a little too sexy a sign for a school zone???  I’ll hump at whatever speed I choose, and isn’t humping a conversation that most parents should have with their children??  I really didn’t appreciate the municipality bringing up the subject with my kids, especially since I don’t agree with their wam-bam-thank-you-ma’am pedagogy.  It’s frustrating enough that our schools insist on using that confounding “Everyday Math” program developed by the University of Chicago, but taking sex education to the streets and using our school zones to promote “quickies” is simply unacceptable.  Like no one was gonna notice????

Of course, after accepting my speeding ticket I immediately placed a call.  The mayor was unavailable–something to do with still serving time–but I got to speak to the assistant to the deputy of the junior mayor.  Or some such person.  Anyway, boy did I feel silly!  Turns out the town wasn’t preaching to our kids about the old mattress mambo, and the use of HUMP instead of BUMP was completely intentional!  Apparently, there’s a real distinction between a speed BUMP and a speed HUMP, the latter characterized by a more gradual slope.  Lookie here at what Wikipedia has to say about the differences between the two traffic controllers:

While similar to speed bumps, humps are less aggressive than speed bumps at low speeds and are used on actual streets, as opposed to bumps which are primarily placed in parking lots. While speed bumps generally slow cars to 5 – 10 mph (8 – 15 km/h), humps slow cars to 10 – 20 mph (15 – 30 km/h). The narrow nature of speed bumps often allows vehicles to pass over them at high speed while only perturbing the wheels and suspension, hardly affecting the vehicle cab and its occupants. The relatively long slopes of speed humps gradually accelerate the entire vehicle in vertical direction, causing the perturbation of the cab to become progressively more severe at higher speeds.

So it was neither a subliminal message to our kids nor a mere semantic preference!

Not feeling that I had satisfied my curiosity about BUMP terms, I dug deeper and discovered the following other names for a speed BUMP:








SLOW CHILD (what????)

SLEEPING POLICEMAN (isn’t the point for people to slow down?)

And my favorite:


Unfortunately, Lumps haven’t been introduced yet.  I’m guessing disagreement in the BUMP community about how swollen a Lump should be.  But tell me you can’t wait for the Lumps?!  I say Lay down the LUMPS!!


Do your favorite pet names date from 10, 100, or 1000 years ago?
Who could resist the opportunity to weigh in on a new pasta shape name?