The Post Post

Things have been a little deep here for the past pandemic or so. We therefore decided the Machine should generate a post about something lighter. So that is exactly what it was told, and in true Siri fashion, what it heard instead was “enlighten us about post”. So the rest of this post is going to be about the origin and many uses of the word “post”.

Like most words, the word “post” ultimately traces all the way back to Latin. Those crazy Latinians. In fact, there are 3 distinct Latin origins of “post”: 1) a combination of por for forward and stare for stand; 2) from ponere for place; and 3) the Pig Latin ost-pay. Ok, there are 2 distinct Latin origins of “post”.

The Latin por and stare became the Latin postis, which became post in Old English and remained post in Middle English, and apparently saw no reason to change to anything else in Young English either. Meanwhile, ponere became Old Italian posta (relay station), which evolved into poste in Middle French (where it meant relay station or courier). Meanmeanwhile, the Greek apo (away from) evolved into the the Lithuanian pas (at) and the Middle English post. Etymology, in the end, is the study of one gigantic game of telephone,

In today’s zany linguistic world, “post” can be a noun, a verb, an adverb, or even a prefix. As a noun, a “post” is what George Thorogood was leaning up against while not trying to find a job in “One Bourbon, One Scotch, and One Beer”. This is what Merriam-Webster defines as “a timber of considerable size set upright”. Which means if you knock this type of post over, you end up with a beam. The post: the chameleon of construction. A “post” can also be “a station when on duty, a fixed position or place.” That was originally used by the English and French as a military term, often when they were fighting each other – if only they had seen their common ground.

How did we end up with a “Post Office”? Well, about halfway through the last millennium, communication of messages and letters was accomplished through a series of riders and horses posted at intervals along a route. Occasionally it would seem that the same delivery system is used today. If you want more history behind this version of the word “post”, please send a letter to Cliff Claven. He can be found on a barstool somewhere in Boston. As a side note, this version of “post” is what also led to it being a part of many newspaper names. If you don’t know what a newspaper is, you are too young, and I don’t like you.

As a verb, you can post a notice, a victory, an entry in a ledger, or bail. Once we opened the door to posting entries in ledgers, posting entries in blogs was an inevitability. Ironically, that type of posting then folded back to a new noun – the blog post. Words move back and forth between parts of speech like soap opera characters move back and forth between sexual partners. As an adverb, around the same time “post” became associated with the mail system, the phrase “ride post” was born, which means to “go rapidly”.

Finally, “post” as a prefix seems to me most likely to have originated from the Greek apo (away from). Of course, I’m an entomologist, not an etymologist. Just kidding, I’m an aerospace engineer. But I did read a book about the origin of insect names once. Just kidding, I don’t read books. But I’ve seen other people reading them.

Don’t miss next week’s blog entry on the origin of the word “paste”.

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