I don’t know what this student meant. He was writing about a teenager who falsely accused a stranger of rape because she thought she was pregnant by her boyfriend and was trying to avoid blame. The case study the class wrote about notes that her “impassioned testimony” was enough to convince the jury despite a lack of other evidence. So maybe “rampant” found its way into this student’s essay by way of that passion.
“Rampant” lurks in my students’ wordstocks. For me it denotes that High-ho Silver stance so popular in heraldry, probably because the first time I ever looked the word up I was reading about some knight’s coat-of-arms; and the stance is the first definition in most dictionaries, followed by its heraldic application. But I don’t think this could be the meaning my students associate with it.
Reading farther down in Webster‘s, I come to the figurative use: “marked by a menacing wildness, extravagance, or absence of restraint.” Then “widespread.” The final definition relates to architecture.
Well, the “widespread” may explain this statement: “Ever since The Journals were published, critical responses, according to Anderson, have been rampant.” Can we attribute this word choice to a thesaurus (print or electronic) carelessly used? That would seem to be the logical explanation here.
But it doesn’t explain “The betrayal becomes deeper and even more rampant.”
Of course for me, even though I sort of knew what these students meant, Silver waves his raised forelegs over every one of these sentences—although he doesn’t show up when I hear or write the common phrase “runs rampant,” except as a hoofbeat sound effect under the wild running.
I imagine most of my students have heard this phrase, “runs rampant.”
Why, then, when a student had a perfectly good chance to use it, did she write “‘His imagination runs rapid”?