Saturday, June 27, 2009

Apple #393: Journey, Journal, Adjourn

I was thinking about these three words as I walked down the airport hallway on the last leg of my California trip back home. I figured they were probably related etymologically, but I wondered how.

For this, I am going to turn to my trusty micrographically reproduced two-volume Oxford English Dictionary. You can also look up these words on Oxford's website, but you won't get nearly the detail that's in the books.


No, not these yahoos.
(Photo from point 'n' shoot)

I mean something more along these lines:

(Photo by your Apple Lady)

  • Reading the words that journey comes from in reverse chronological order:
  1. journee, French. Day, or day's travel, or day's work
  2. jornada, Spanish & Portuguese. Same as above or also a conference
  3. giornata, Italian. Same as above
  4. diurnata, Latin. Daily (think of the English word diurnal)
  5. dies, Latin. Day
  • Given that this word journey comes from that ancestral vocabulary, so to speak, it makes sense that the original meaning of journey is a single day.
  • It also used to mean a day at some point in the future when a conference or battle was going to happen.
  • The next meaning in the list is a day's travel. In the Middle Ages, the distance you could travel in a single day was about 20 miles.
  • People extended their use of this word by saying things like "two days' journey" or "five days' journey."
  • Then the next variant meaning along these lines is a complete course of travel, from beginning to end, usually over land.
  • Then there are a whole bunch of meanings associated with a day's work, such as a day's labor, the business that happened during the day, the day's battle, or -- this one is pretty interesting -- a certain weight of gold or silver, which represented the number of coins that could be cut from it in payment of one day's wages.


(leather-bound journal from Wealthwood Gifts)

  • From journey you get journey-book, or the log or itinerary kept of the trip. Which is essentially a journal.
  • Journal also comes from a French root which is descended from the Latin diurnal. In this case, the French root is, jurnal, which means day-book.
  • One of the older meanings of journal is a measure of land. That would be the amount of land you could cover on your day's journey, or also the amount of land you could plow in a day.
  • Journal also (obscurely) refers to a part of machinery; that is, the section of shaft or axle which rests on the bearings.
  • But mostly, it means a daily record of events. Those events might be what happened during your day's travel, or whatever commercial transactions took place in your shop, or the public news of the day, or they might be any events of personal interest. While similar to diary, the OED says, journal implies a more elaborate record.

  • This word, too, comes from the Latin diurnal by way of the French. But it's got that prefix ad- on the front of it, which means "to."
  • So, putting the pieces together, this word means "to that day." As in, we'll agree to appoint that day over there as the one on which we'll deal with this stuff.
  • The official definitions say you could defer or suspend the action until that other day, or you could discontinue it completely.
  • Adjourn could also mean to separate with the agreement that everyone will meet at another place.

So, my journey to California, which lasted several days and covered far greater distances than 20 miles per day but did take place over land, has formed the subject of several entries in this here journal. (I'm using that term loosely, since I didn't give you all a day-by-day record of events, but rather a topic-by-topic record.) But now, after several journeys of work, I am going to adjourn this subject.

Now, let us all adjourn to the lanai, as an old friend used to say.

Somewhere in India.
(Photo from LA Times Crossword Corner.)


  1. Happy Birthday Apple Lady, and while I have no lanai, I do have a deck & some cold ice tea. Come over & partake.

  2. Beautiful photos. Thanks for brightening my day!


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