THERE'S no stumping the loyal customers of this column who repeatedly prove themselves to be in world class when it comes to solving tricky yedscratters of both the historical and weird and wonderful kind.

And it's back into the archives we now go with history buff Kevin Heneghan, a valued contributor to this page, in unearthing a solution to reader Derek Smith's puzzler (June 14) about the origins of the term 'stumping up', as in making a payment.

And, perhaps suprisingly, its root appears to have nowt to do with the game of cricket.

"The term is an Americanism", explains retired teacher Kevin. "It originates in the old custom of paying debts publicly on the stump of a tree. It was probably from this that the slang term stump, or stumpy (meaning money) developed. It had crossed the Atlantic by 1835 when Dickens could write: 'Why don't you ask your old governor to stump up?'"

Tree stumps also prompted the American expression 'to go on the stump', meaning to run a political campaign through a region. It dates from the time when the stump of a large tree was used as a platform for a speaker.

And this practice prompted a classic jibe from the well-known Democrat of his time, Adlai Stevenson, who said of President Richard ('Tricky Dicky') Nixon that he was the kind of politician who would cut down a majestic redwood tree "and then mount the stump and make a speech on conservation".

Trees have historically been convenient meeting places, Kevin points out. Laffack (variously spelt Leafog, Laghok and La Fog) means 'law oak' where local justice was dispensed in Saxon Times. "Broad Oak seems also to have been a law oak".

Stumping up is a term similar to 'paying on the nail' which dates from mediaeval days when the 'nail' was a shallow vessel mounted on a stand. Business was concluded by paying into this, and it might have earned that name from its resemblance to the shape of a nail.

Kevin keeps the fascinating flow going by adding: "Outside the Bristol Corn Exchange, such nails can still be seen . . . and I seem to remember reading that there used to be a pillar at Liverpool Cotton Exchange which served the same purpose and was known as 'the Stump'. Perhaps some reader can confirm this".

The later definition of 'stumped', as in being baffled, was first recorded in 1812, says our retired teacher chum. "In America, it had nothing to do with cricket. There it referred to the stumps that settlers had to pull from the earth when felling trees to clear farmland. Some of these were so big and deep-rooted that they perplexed the pioneers. In other words, they were stumped".

The term developed along other lines in England where, from about 1830, to be stumped meant to be ruined or made penniless, again from the link with 'stump' (money). "Its connection with cricket, in the sense of being at a loss for words, was evidently a later development".

WELL, if we were stumped by that term earlier, then Derek Smith and myself are certainly not any longer. Thanks for the full chapter and verse, Kevin lad!