Monday, November 20, 2006

Pilgrim's Progress

Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving this week, and the word Pilgrims will inevitably arise.

Pilgrim is a word that was used by John Wayne in several of his westerns, usually addressing a stranger on his way through town. That was entirely appropriate.

The word started life in Latin as two words: per (through) and ager (field). This led to the word pereger, someone traveling abroad. That, in turn, led to peregrinus, a foreigner. Over the course of centuries, this was transmuted in English to pilgrim.

We have retained the fancy word peregrination to denote a journey, and we know that there is a peregrine falcon. In Gregorian chant, there was a Peregrine Tone, an unorthodox set of notes that wandered more than usual. And the British satirist Tobias Smollett wrote a novel entitled, The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, poking fun at the Grand Tour concept of his day.

Cease your peregrinity, Pilgrim, and rest your spurs awhile.

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