Showing posts with label occupations. Show all posts
Showing posts with label occupations. Show all posts

posted, post and mail

On to April's queries--with the goal of getting through them before the term starts.

On a visit to Colorado, Chris was puzzled:
Lining the roads were expanses of trees, and every so often I'd see a sign nailed to a tree that said "Posted."

Nothing else.
We have signs like this in my native New York state, too, and many, if not most, other states--though whether they can get away with just saying Posted might vary. The longer form of the sign would say Posted: No Trespassing, and we could refer to the area of land with these signs at its borders as posted land. In other words, the sign is saying that the land is privately owned (or at least not open to the public) and that you are not allowed to be on the land without the owner's permission, and that because signs have been 'posted' you have been warned of this fact. These kinds of signs, in my experience, are particularly used in wooded areas of countryside. This is the landowner's way of keeping away hunters, anglers, dog-walkers, (AmE) hikers/(BrE) ramblers, (orig. N. Amer. E) snowmobilers, others' livestock, etc. This also gives rise to the transitive verb: to post land--that is, to declare it off-limits by posting signs at specific intervals, as specified by state law. When I was a child, I was told that landowners were allowed to shoot trespassers if they'd posted their land. This, of course, was not true (though it could well have been true a longer time ago). These days, the penalties are fines or short jail stints and/or loss of hunting/fishing licen{c/s}es, depending on the state and whether the trespasser has hunted or has previous convictions. Click for miscellaneous examples from Kansas, Florida and North Dakota.

The trend in (at least northern) Europe is toward public access to private land. The UK recently implemented the Countryside and Right of Way Act (2000), informally known as the right to roam, which allows anyone the right to (BrE) ramble/(AmE) hike on uncultivated land (but not to ride horses, camp, etc.). (Hunting privileges are another matter, about which I have no clue.) For other European countries, see this Wikipedia article.

The Posted signs are pretty opaque in their meaning in the first place, but probably even more foreign to BrE speakers, since the related adjectival meaning of posted is used less in the UK:
2. Set up or fixed in a prominent place; displayed so as to provide information; advertised, made public. Now chiefly N. Amer. [OED: Mar 2007 draft revision]
As in:
1975 N.Y. Times 29 Oct. 28/1 There was ample time to peruse the posted menu of the day's cuisine minceur.
In BrE, one might be more likely to interpret posted menu as a menu that had been sent through the (BrE-preferred) post /(AmE-preferred) mail. (Mailed menu sounds a little odd to me in AmE--I'd probably say menu that had been sent in the mail.) When I worked in South Africa, in the days before widespread e-mail availability, I lived for the post/mail, even though it largely consisted of recitations by my mother of who-ate-what when they went out to dinner last. All of my letters were sent to my work address, so every afternoon, I could be heard to be wondering whether the mail was here yet. One of my colleagues could always be counted on to offer himself as "the male". That trained me into saying post fairly quickly.

Of course, the organi{s/z}ation that delivers the (BrE) post in the UK is the Royal Mail, demonstrating that mail isn't an AmE word, but that the senses and usage of the word varies across the two places. In BrE, it's more likely to be the mail when it is in transit in large bunches, and more likely to be the post when it is on its way from the post office to your door. Hence this entry in the OED (2004 draft revision):
2. a. A bag or packet of letters or dispatches for conveyance by post (more fully [Obs.] mail of letters). In later use chiefly: the postal matter (or a quantity of letters, packages, etc.) conveyed in this manner; all that is conveyed by post on one occasion. With definite article or without article. Also (chiefly in N. Amer.) in pl., and (chiefly S. Asian) with indefinite article.
The plural use mentioned here for AmE, the mails isn't used all that much, and sounds fairly outdated to me. (Something that the Pony Express might deal in, but not the modern-day USPS.) But the 'In later use chiefly' bit in the above definition is more true of BrE than AmE, since the following use is equally dominant in AmE:
c. orig. U.S. The letters, packages, etc., delivered to or intended for one address or individual.
The OED goes on to note that mail in AmE and AusE is also used to refer to the 'system of delivery and conveyance of letters, etc., by post', and notes:
The term mail (as distinguished from post) is currently dominant in North America and Australia, both for the system itself and the material carried. New Zealand retains post for the postal system, but mail otherwise. Britain favours post in both contexts. However, this pattern is not necessarily maintained in historically fixed collocations, such as Royal Mail, Post Office, Canada Post, Australia Post, parcel post, junk mail, etc. In the United Kingdom the word was formerly limited in ordinary use to the dispatch of letters abroad, as the Indian mail, etc., or as short for mail-train.
And thus AmE speakers tend to talk about mailmen--or the less gendered letter carriers--while BrE speakers tend to talk about postmen--but I note that the Royal Mail jobs website uses postperson where space is at a premium, and postman/postwoman elsewhere. Postal worker is used more generically to include people who work in the post office or sorting office, as well as deliverers, and of course some high-profile cases of postal workers (orig. BrE, I think) going mental and shooting people resulted in the AmE colloquialism to go postal.

Of course, postman is also known and used in AmE, as evidenced by The Postman Always Rings Twice and The Postman. This sounds a little old-fashioned to me in AmE, and I think Costner used postman in his title because it sounds a little more exotic than mailman. J. Robert Lennon's book title Mailman, on the other hand, carries with it a more quotidian feel. (Is it perverse to use such an exotic word to mean 'everyday'?)

I suppose we can't leave this subject without touching on e(lectronic)-mail. Much of the history of e(-)mail is situated in US Department of Defense (= BrE Defence) projects, which is probably why we call it e(-)mail, rather than e-post. This, of course, led to the AmE coinage of snail mail, but in BrE, of course, one can distinguish between the two types of communication by referring to e(-)mail versus post.

And with that, I'll post this blog post!
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touts, scalpers and buskers

Zhoen thought she knew BrE pretty well, but then...
Just came across a new Br/E expression I'd never heard used before, touting. Which in Am/E is scalping, buying tickets, then selling them right before the event for a very high price.
She included the following contrastive examples in her e-mail:
Glastonbury founder Michael Eavis explains why the photo ID scheme in place for this year's festival could mean the death of the ticket tout. BBC News

Authorities turn up heat on scalpers.
My first thought on this was that (BrE) ticket touts sometimes have different practices than (AmE) scalpers. Either might buy tickets to an entertainment event and then re-sell them for a higher price, but the English ticket touts that I encounter most often haven't invested in the tickets in the first place. These touts operate in London Underground stations, cadging* Travelcards (day-long tickets) from people who are finished travel(l)ing, in order to re-sell them (or possibly use them themselves). A disembodied voice at Victoria Station instructs travel(l)ers not to give unused tickets to touts because the money is used for illegal activities or drugs (or something like that). One would presume that their business is falling away rapidly, as the Oyster Card (a pay-as-you-go card) is quickly replacing the Travelcard for all but tourists.

So, there I am thinking that ticket tout has a broader meaning/use than scalper, until I read the OED on scalper, which tells us that the original ticket scalpers were:
U.S. slang. One who buys and sells at a profit, but at a price lower than the official one, unused portions of long-distance railway tickets.
So, it's all the same thing, then--although the most recent quotation in the OED for this AmE sense is from 1891. The more recent sense of scalper is not unknown in the UK, but it is an originally AmE word--metaphorically related to the taking of actual scalps.

Thinking about touts/scalpers, led me to think about other street characters, and thus to the BrE word busker, meaning a street musician/performer--the type who puts a hat or violin case out for coins. AmE doesn't seem to have a word for this concept--I think one has to say street musician. How did I ever live without this word and its verb form to busk? My favo(u)rite busker in our old neighbo(u)rhood played the saw (We lived in a very busky place--and no, busky isn't BrE, it's LynneE.) We're actually trying to find him again to hire him for an upcoming event, so if you know a saw player in Brighton, please point him my way! This sense of busk may be related to an earlier sense meaning 'to cruise as a pirate', though the OED doesn't have full confidence in that etymology. But if you see a busker with an eyepatch or a hook for a hand, maybe you can submit that to the OED as etymological evidence.

While we're on the topic of music (wow, look at that pathetic segue!), this has nothing to do with dialects of English, but it does have to do with English, so I hereby note with amusement The Ex's single This Song is in English.

* This is not marked in the American Heritage Dictionary as BrE, but I hear cadge more often in BrE than I ever did in AmE--particularly in phrases like cadge a lift (AmE = beg/get a ride from). Michael Quinion over at World Wide Words has a nice little essay about it.
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AmE = American English
BrE = British English
OED = Oxford English Dictionary (online)