Sunday, February 26, 2017

Words of the day: post, posthaste

Whence the post in post office?

The term comes from positus, Latin for “position" or “station,” and a postal system carries information from one place to another, preferably with dispatch. (“Posthaste” first appeared as an instruction on the cover, or outside, of a letter but soon became a synonym for “hurry up!“)

Winifred Gallagher, How the Post Office Created America: A History (New York: Penguin, 2016).
A blog post is a post of a different kind. The first Oxford English Dictionary citation for this kind of posting (“a message displayed on a mailing list, newsgroup, or other online forum to which it has been sent”) dates from 1981. The shorter post dates from 1982. The OED sees the influence of old-fashioned posting (“the dispatching of letters, etc., by a messenger riding post“) in these newer uses. In my mind, a different sense of posting has always been behind the online term: “the action of putting up a notice on a post, wall, etc., or of making anything public by this or similar means.” See also the Facebook metaphor of writing on someone’s wall.

I hope that this post makes someone curious enough to look up mail (as I just did).

comments: 3

Geo-B said...

Another left over term is stamp, although we don't stamp the postage on any more (unless metering could be considered). I always thought a better term would be "licks." And now we have stickers.

Michael Leddy said...

Every time I lick an envelope, I appreciate the new direction in postage.

By the way — we watched Genius last night, and those pencil sounds are amplified or dubbed, for sure.

Slywy said...

My post on stamps. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)