A Daily Word, Not Just for Wednesdays

Photo by Joe Pizzio on Unsplash

Bloggers’ and YouTubers’ apologies for not recently posting are unnecessary and boring, in my opinion, so I’ll skip the regrets and excuses.

Speaking of social media, however, here’s a word you may be noticing as much as I am: journey. Influencers are on a fitness journey, or a weight-loss journey, or a decluttering journey, or a recovery journey. I just now saw a sewing-machine shop website, which suggests you begin your journey with sewing classes. Furniture refinishers are on a restoration journey.

There’s nothing wrong with all these journeys, except that once you start noticing the word, it gets annoying. This is the nature of cliches. Instead of listening to the speaker, I start thinking, “You could say process, maybe, or adventure, or experience. How about undertaking or experiment?” Share your own creative substitutions in the comments.

Journey, like many cliches, began as an original and vivid metaphor. Think about the first time, for example, someone said she was head over heels in love. How startling is that image? Love turns you into Simone Biles spinning around upside down!

Except it’s not startling any more. It washes over you with no effect, because you’ve heard it so many times. The metaphor journey is the same. Originally, the word implied that your new venture felt like traveling, like you’re getting somewhere. Now it just sounds hackneyed and pretentious.

Journey itself has had an interesting journey through Western culture. The root is the Latin diurnus, meaning “daily,” which came from dies, meaning “day” (as in per diem). This evolved into the Old French word jornee, meaning “a day’s travel.” Journey, then, is related to the soup du jour on your menu and the journal in which you confide daily thoughts about your spiritual journey.

Interesting that journey by its very root once connoted a brief jaunt. Now it implies a longer voyage (or a rock band). Like a trip to the center of the earth, or like Sheila Burnford’s incredible chronicle about two lost dogs and a cat finding their way home. No longer a day trip, journey implies long and arduous effort, like, well, fitness, weight loss, and decluttering.

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4 Responses to A Daily Word, Not Just for Wednesdays

  1. Roger Talbott says:

    Both thoughtful and thought-provoking.

  2. Sarah Becker says:

    I love it when a cliche is turned upside down.

    “Eyes wide shut” has a shock built into it.

    Also Spoonerisms: a friend used to say “out on left limb,” which always left me speechless!

  3. Bill says:

    OMG I love watching Simone! I’ve always marveled at the athleticism of gymnasts. It strikes me how young girls can be washed up at such an early age – like second grade, for crying out loud! I imagine early on that each day to the gym would be a journey, those trips to a world so different from home or school. How long can they keep their eyes wide open? How many journeys before the process begins?

  4. Kathy says:

    I appreciate your speaking this truth about language. These words and phrases do become irritating and yes, they do start sounding pretentious. The best I can do is groan and then laugh at their usage.

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