Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Take'er Easy There, Pilgrim

I subscribe to the Oxford English Dictionary's Word of the Day email. The OED is best known for their 'genealogy (etymology) of words.'

On holidays their word choice is often related to the holiday. For example, here is a selection from today's word: Pilgrim

4. a. U.S. Hist. Usu. in plural and with capital initial. Any of the English Puritans who founded the colony of Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1620; (gen.) any of the other early English colonists. See also Pilgrim Fathers n. at Compounds 2.

In quot. 1630, William Bradford (the second governor of Plymouth) uses pilgrim of the settlers figuratively, alluding to Hebrews 11:13 (cf. sense 3). The same phraseology was repeated by Cotton Mather and others, and became familiar in New England. By the late 18th cent. commemorative toasts were often given to the Pilgrims or the Sons of the Pilgrims, and through such celebration Pilgrim and Pilgrim Father eventually passed into use as historical designations.

1630 W. BRADFORD Hist. Plymouth Plantation 36 They knew they were but pilgrimes, & looked not much on those things; but lift vp their eyes to ye heauens, their dearest cuntrie. 1654 E. JOHNSON Hist. New-Eng. 216 Yet were these pilgrim people minded of the suddain forgetfulness of those worthies that died not long before. 1660 in Publ. Colonial Soc. Mass. (1914) 17 366 [New Haven colony] bounds extended neare unto Cold Spring, beyond Pilgrims Harbour. 1702 C. MATHER Magnalia Christi II. i. 3/1 They found..a new which they found that they must live like Strangers and Pilgrims. 1794 in Publ. Colonial Soc. Mass. (1914) 17 366 Toasts on the occasion, viz..The Pilgrims in Concord. 1841 A. YOUNG Chron. Pilgrim Fathers 88 The term Pilgrims belongs exclusively to the Plymouth colonists. 1892 Nation (N.Y.) 21 Apr., What shall we say to the descendants of the Pilgrims, and the Signers,..who are happy and content under his sway? 1957 Encycl. Brit. XIV. 101/2 The Betty lamp of the Pilgrims (1620)..was equipped for hanging from mantelpieces or shelves. 1987 N. BLEI Neighborhood xxii. 146 Thanksgiving was as gray as the clothes the Pilgrims wore.

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