The insurance team at Moore Stephens, however, has no such luck, and in its latest industry newsletter has decided to spill the beans on the bumbershoot. It explains that ‘bumbershoot’ is a fanciful American term from the nineteenth century for an umbrella. It is also a fanciful American term for an insurance policy covering all miscellaneous forms of liability.
While the rest of the world was happy to use Mrs Gamp in Martin Chuzzlewit as a slang term for the umbrella, America chose the bumbershoot, which is one of the few words never used by Dickens. Although you will still find brokers in London today trying to place them, bumbershoots, like baseball, have never really caught on outside the US. They may be the result of a glottal stop or a vowel merger, or perhaps neither.
The classic bumbershoot policy is exclusively marine - and non-marine - and covers amounts in excess of other existing underlying insurances. It can also be extended to cover liability not insured elsewhere. In other words, it is an ordinary insurance policy with a silly name.
Generally, an insurance company will offer umbrella insurance in amounts anywhere between one million and ten million dollars. Who has that much money these days, anyway? To decide if you need bumbershoots, add up your assets and then add up your umbrella covers. If assets exceed umbrellas, you may want to consider getting a policy, or a life.
In France, umbrellas are called parapluies, especially in Cherbourg.
Put by for a rainy day.