Saturday, October 09, 2010

Pep Rally

A local high school held a pep rally before a football game this weekend, inspiring a neighbor (and a student at that school) to ask, “where did that come from?”

Rally started as a British military term, a rapid reassembling of troops for a renewed attack. By the time the Americans borrowed the term in the 19th century, they had given it a more pacific meaning: a mass meeting to inspire enthusiasm, especially a political event. In our day, it is usually in reference to a sporting event.

Pep as a freestanding word is now considered a bit quaint, a synonym for vim, vigor, animation, enthusiasm, vivacity, ebullience, zeal, energy, and other words in that neighborhood.

It is probably a shortened version of pepper, the hot pungent spice. The analogy is that a stimulating spicy addition to food serves the same purpose as stimulating fans to hunger for a victory.

Available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

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