Tramp  

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"Any presentable woman can, in the last resort, attach herself to some man. The result, for a tramp, is that he is condemned to perpetual celibacy. For of course it goes without saying that if a tramp finds no women at his own level, those above—even a very little above—are as far out of his reach as the moon. The reasons are not worth discussing, but there is no doubt that women never, or hardly ever, condescend to men who are much poorer than themselves. A tramp, therefore, is a celibate from the moment when he takes to the road. He is absolutely without hope of getting a wife, a mistress, or any kind of woman except—very rarely, when he can raise a few shillings—a prostitute." --Down and Out in Paris and London (1933) by George Orwell

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

A tramp is a long-term homeless person who travels from place to place as a vagrant, traditionally walking all year round. The term "tramp" became a common way to refer to such people in 19th century America.

Etymology

Tramp is derived from the Middle English as a verb meaning to "walk with heavy footsteps" (cf. modern English trample) and to go hiking. In the United States, the word became frequently used during the American Civil War, to describe the widely shared experience of undertaking long marches, often with heavy packs. Use of the word as a noun is thought to have began shortly after the war. A few veterans had developed a liking for the "call of the road", others may have been too traumatised by war time experience to return to settled life.

The number of transient homeless people increased markedly in the U.S. after the industrial recession of the early 1870s. Initially, the term "tramp" had a broad meaning, and was often used to refer to migrant workers who were looking for permanent work and lodgings. Later the term acquired a narrower meaning, to refer only to those who prefer the transient way of life.

While some tramps may do odd jobs from time to time, unlike other temporarily homeless people they do not seek out regular work and support themselves by other means such as begging or scavenging (see Waste picker). This is in contrast to:

  • bum, a stationary homeless person who does not work, and who begs for a living in one place.
  • hobo, a homeless person who travels from place to place looking for work, often by "freighthopping" (illegally catching rides on freight trains)
  • Schnorrer, a Yiddish term for a person who travels from city to city begging.

Both terms, "tramp" and "hobo" (and the distinction between them), were in common use between the 1880s and the 1940s. Their populations and the usage of the terms increased during the Great Depression.

Like "hobo" and "bum," the word "tramp" is considered vulgar in American English usage, having been subsumed in more polite contexts by words such as "homeless person" or "vagrant." At one time, tramps were known euphemistically in England and Wales as "gentlemen of the road."

Bart Kennedy, a self-described tramp of 1900 America, once said "I listen to the tramp, tramp of my feet, and wonder where I was going, and why I was going."


See also

see Tramp (disambiguation)




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Tramp" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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