Linguistic commentary from a guy who takes things too literally


Posted by Neal on February 23, 2008

There was an eye-catching action shot on the front page of a community newspaper this week. It was taken in an elementary school gym, and showed a first-grade girl jumping rope. (It seems all the local elementary schools do a unit on jumping rope around this time of year.) The photographer had caught her in mid-air, legs bent, arms out, red hair flying out horizontally, and a grin on her face (the usual place for grins to appear, I believe). It was such a neat shot that I showed it to Doug and Adam.

“What’s she doing?” asked Doug as he took the paper. “Oh, she’s jump-roping.”

“Jump-roping, huh?” I said. “Is that how you say it?” I handed the paper to Adam. “What would you say she’s doing, Adam? Jumping rope, or jump-roping?”

Adam thought for a second, then said, “Jumping rope.”

“Well, jump-roping is what all my friends say,” Doug told us.

I get 418K Google hits for “jumping rope”, and 127K for “jumproping”, “jump roping”, and “jump ropeing” combined. There were enough hits for jump-roping compared to jumping rope that my suspicion is that jump-roping has been around for quite a while. I don’t have any data correlating these forms with age, so I can’t say if jump-roping is something that’s only recently caught on. However, if Doug’s friends are representative of the general population of American English-speaking kids, I’m getting a feeling of deja vu.


16 Responses to “Jump-Roping”

  1. Bridget said

    I think you’re right that jumproping has been around for a while; I’m in my 20’s and that’s definitely what I’d say. The verb for me is clearly a compound júmprope, not jump rópe.

  2. Robin said

    Interesting. It’s a different matter here in Canada, of course, because the noun is “skipping rope” to start with.

  3. The Ridger said

    Huh. I think we always said júmp rope as far as stress went, but the verb was “go jump rope” or “play jump rope”. Both “jumping rope” and “jumproping” sound odd to me, but differently so. “Jumproping” just sounds like it isn’t a word, but “I’m jumping rope” actually stumps me. I think if I heard it I’d actually think “Jumping? Like jumbling? How do you jump rope – oh, I see.” What’s going on? (thinking to myself now) I think that although jump is transitive (horses jump fences all the time) there’s something about jump-rope that makes it ineligible. The repetition? The fact that the rope is moving, not you? Weird. Now my head hurts.

    Stupid kids. Tell Doug to turn his music down and his hat around!

  4. Viola said

    When I asked Holt (age 9), he said jump-roping. Gregg (age 5, almost 6) said jumping rope. This will perhaps help you with your kid-gaging-language-use-assessments or give you further deja vu to ponder.
    I myself would go for jumping rope:
    2. It doesn’t require a hyphen to make sense, which appeals to our lazy side when necessary.
    3. The visual (and perhaps logical–take it as you will) part of me thinks of a cowboy, lasso, and a rodeo scene gone very bad when I think of jump-roping.

  5. Matthew said

    Hey, I have a lot of brothers and sisters. We’re all Colorado Natives, except the parents.
    Me (20): jumproping.
    Mark (18): doesn’t know. Says it depends if “jumprope” is a word.
    Jonathan (15): jumproping. Says “jumping rope” is making the rope jump or something.
    Rachel (12): jumproping.
    Justin (10): jumping rope.
    Renee (8): jumproping.
    Michael (6): jumproping.
    Mom (moved to LA from Lebanon at 13, got first English education in a British school): jumping rope. Says “jumproping” is bizarre.

  6. Rachel K said

    “Jumping rope” sounds much better to me than “jumproping”, but I’d probably actually call it “skipping”. (25, Canadian)

  7. Ingeborg S. Nordén said

    I’ve heard at least three variations (jumping rope, skipping rope, playing jumprope); using the compound “jumprope” as anything but a noun sounds weird to me. As far as regional data goes–I’ve lived in several Southern states as a child but spent most of my adult life in Wisconsin.

  8. Rachel K said

    On a whim, I googled for “rope jumping” and it too has a fair number of hits, most of which seem relevant; in at least some cases (e.g., this one, the same piece used “rope jumping” and “jumping rope”.

  9. Neal said

    Thanks, everyone, for your data points. One thing that occurred to me after doing the post is that jumproping sounds strange to me only if I think of it as a case of the suffix –ing jumping from the verb to the verb’s direct object, analogous to something like *eat-souping. But if you just take it as a verb formed by simply converting a noun (otherwise known as “verbing a noun”), it’s better. Thus, just as bicycling and snowmobiling are what you do with bicycles and snowmobiles, jumproping is what you do with jumpropes. I think Matthew’s brother Mark was onto this when he said the acceptability of jumproping depended on whether jumprope was a word. I’m assuming he meant whether it was a noun, specifically.

  10. Ingeborg S. Nordén said

    Neal–your analogy with *eat-souping hit the nail on the head. I’ve grown up distinguishing between “jumprope” (a one-word compound noun) and “jump rope” (a two-word verb/object phrase, naming what people do with the rope). Turning the noun into a verb seems to switch things backwards, as if a bicyclist were to say *I’m going ride-biking.

  11. Maya said

    OK…I have a question that is related but that I haven’t seen addressed anywhere else…

    What is the past tense of what you do with a rope? “Yesterday I jumped rope.” or “Yesterday I jumproped.” or “Yesterday I skipped rope.” or what??

    To me, it sounds natural to say “I jumproped.” but “I am jumping rope.”

  12. Neal said

    Good question. I’d predict that someone who said jumproping would also say jumproped, and vice versa. You, however, disproved that hypothesis before I could even make it. I’ll ask Doug and Adam what they say, and perhaps other readers will contribute their usage. As for me, I say jumped rope.

  13. Uly said

    My nieces say jumproping. I was going to say that I’d say jumping rope, but the comments jogged my memory – as a kid, I would’ve called this “playing jump rope”. I didn’t do it as a kid, though, it wasn’t the thing where I grew up. We played Chinese jump rope instead, a completely different game.

  14. L S said

    So funny to find this thread, because my darling baby girl (age 11) and I have been debating this for some time, since her school holds a bit of fame for it’s jumprope team. We’ve come to a bit of an agreement that, if jumprope is one word then it could possibly be jumproping. As in biclycling. If it is 2 words, and a noun/verb combo, the you would have to -ing the verb (jumping rope). So, I guess we’ve agreed to disagree on the “correct” way to say it. 🙂

  15. Parker said

    We went to this website and read all the replies because my teacher corrected me when I wrote jump roping on my homework. And now we know jumping rope is the correct way, because jumping is the verb and rope is the noun. I am 6 years old in first grade.

  16. A said

    I realize this post is nearing 10 years old, but I’m teaching English in Japan and it was useful for an elementary school lesson I’m doing.

    For any future readers that might be interested, I found something neat. I checked google’s ngram viewer to see the prevalence of both “jumping rope” and “jump roping” over time.

    In literature, jumping rope has been around since about 1845 while jump roping has only been seen since about 1955. Neither is especially new, but conjugating “jump” instead of conjugating “rope” has a 110 year start.

    Personally, I agree with conjugating “jump” here. As we know, jump rope is also a noun, so adding the conjugation to the end of it as a “noun turned verb” like that appears somewhat lazy. It’s feels like saying “picnic blanketing” instead of “picnicking on a blanket,” or “brother in laws” rather than “brothers in law.”

    Really, I guess I just find “jump roping” so odd considering the structure of jump rope as a verb and a noun. When you say, “He is jumping rope” you’re stating “he jumps (with/over/using a) rope,” which makes sense in a very straightforward way. But, saying “He is jump roping” just sounds like “he is roping in (as in binds/secures) jumps,” which makes significantly less sense especially to ELLs.

    I’m 28 & American btw (20 when this was published lol).

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