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In Print: On News Stands Now

THE SIMILARITIES BETWEEN TRAVEL AND TRAVAIL

by Tumbleweed Smith

You need to have all the levity you can when you travel. My two sons were spending some quality time in Las Vegas recently and when they went to a restaurant for dinner, the hostess approached their table and said, 'Enjoy, your waiter will be right with you.' Kevin, my oldest, looked at his brother BZ and said, 'Hmmm, 'Enjoy' is a funny name for a waiter. BZ replied, 'I thought 'Right With You' was a funny name. They laughed for ten minutes. I do have clever sons.

A professor friend of mine used to joke about the word travel coming from the word travail. I laughed when he said it, but I've found out it makes sense. There are so many things that can go wrong. Perhaps the most anxiety comes on the way to the airport at the start of the journey. You hope the plane is on time. You hope you can make your connecting flights. You hope your carry on luggage will fit in the overhead bin. (I heard the other day there are two types of luggage: lost and carry-on.) We always carry-on. Once I had a bag lost coming back from South Africa. Instead of going to Midland, Texas it went to London, England. That big store somewhere up north that sells items from lost luggage indicates a lot of people don't re-connect with their luggage.

Another worry is your reservation at a hotel. Once we had made reservations online for a room in San Francisco and when we got to the hotel, there was no record of our reservation. On the other hand, I phoned a motel in Crockett the other day and tried to reserve a room for two nights. They told me they had no rooms. I contacted the same motel on the Internet and got a room for two nights.

On a trip, you hope you have the right clothes. You hope all the activities you've planned work out OK. Travelers have plenty to worry about.

I did some research on the word travel and discovered that Frommer's travel guide says travel comes from the French word travil, meaning hardship. I did some further research and found that Frommer (whose book, Europe on $5 a Day got me all over Europe when I was a soldier) was pretty close. Random House says the modern French meaning of travail is 'work' and goes on to say that way back in the 13th century, when English borrowed the word from French, it could mean either 'work' or 'torture'.

Travel goes all the way back to Vulgar Latin trepaliare meaning a three-pointed stake. By the end of the 12th century, the Old French word travailler also referred to childbirth. In the 13th century, English borrowed the word, giving us the Middle English form travaillen, meaning 'toil' or 'trouble'. Early in the 14th century the meaning shifted to the modern sense 'to travel'. The semantic connection was clear to medieval travelers who sometimes walked to their destination and slept on the ground. Travel for them was a lot of work, although different from being tormented with a three-staked torture device.

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