Where does the word “Callithump” come from and What does Callithump mean?

Back in 1856, B. H. Hall, in College Words and Customs, attributed the name callithump to a noisemaking band composed of Yale College students.

Maybe he was right, but if so, the callithumpians, as members of any similar band were known, had also spread out by 1830 from New Haven to New York.

At least the term sounds as if it had a college source, made up from Greek kalos, “beautiful,” and thump; “a beautiful thump.”

What did these beautiful thumpers do? Strummed on pans, kettles, coal buckets, and any other discordant noisemaker to make the night hideous.

The name, sometimes degenerated to “cowthump,” was also applied to the “shivaree” or charivari.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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