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Letters
July 13, 1964

Rumpelstiltskin

JAMA. 1964;189(2):165. doi:10.1001/jama.1964.03070020093030

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Abstract

To the Editor:—  Etymology is a fascinating subject but can go astray, as is shown by interpreting "Rumpelstiltskin" to mean "crinkly foreskin" (JAMA188:309 [April 20] 1964).Not by any stretch of imagination can such a meaning be attributed to the name. Whoever first gave it such a meaning expressed an opinion completely unclouded by the facts.First of all, the meaning is completely foreign to Grimm's fairy tales. Secondly, the word is to be divided thusly: "Rumpel" (verb "rumpeln") not meaning to crinkle but to jolt or even rumble; "stilts" (low German for "Stelzen"), meaning stilts; and "kin" (low German for "chen"), simply the well-known diminutive. For example, a "Stiltsfoet" (low German for Stelzfuss) is a wooden foot or leg.While it is not mentioned, I am sure that the dwarf was endowed with a Stiltsfoet, hence his ability to stamp through the floor.

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