Tuesday, February 10, 2015

2399 Har Binge

I was writing something recently and I used the phrase "harbingers of doom."  It had a nice ring to it.  I guess I must have seen it used that way before because I've always used the full phrase as a complete thought.  Harbingers of doom.

But for some reason this time I wondered.  What is a harbinger?  And are they always harbing doom?  Or is that harbinging doom? 

Are there harbingers of hope or joy?  Happy harbingers?  I think so.  Because I've also heard the phrase "the green buds were the harbingers of spring."

So harbingers aren't necessarily negative.  Are they then like the three Fates of Grecian lore, just destiny, with neither good nor bad implied?  The three Fates were the Spinner, who spun your life's thread, the Allotter, who measured it, and the Cutter, who snipped it off. 

There used to be the Waxer, who gave the thread of your life waterproofing and a nice sheen, but she ran off with Hercules after  getting rid of his unsightly back hair.

I digress. 

Harbingers, according to the etymology dictionary, were originally persons sent out to arrange lodging.  Usually for some noble or royal personage.  It comes from the Middle English herberger, which meant innkeeper. 

The 15th century verb version of the term "to harbinge," actually meant to lodge, or to provide shelter.  At some point the mission became the person, so to send a person to find shelter meant to call him a messenger to the shelter keeper and, you know, language is weird. 

In any event harbinger is essentially a word that's more of less synonymous with both messenger and message.  Harbingers of spring are a message and a messenger that spring is on the way.

It's now fully harbinged in my brain.  

America, ya gotta love it. 

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