Monday, January 13, 2014


I heard something interesting today on MPR (pretentious dog alert!).  In a relatively unrelated story about President Obama, the guest paused to give a brief history of the word 'Priority'.  Because I'm a huge linguistics geek (as many of you know) my ears immediately perked right up.

'Priority' as a noun apparently first came into usage roughly circa 1400 (which makes it More or less the latter quarter of Middle English for anyone who cares).  It derives from Latin, via French and roughly translates to 'having the state of being before'.  All of which means that the Saxons bear no blame on this issue, and are in no way responsible for arranging your workload.

The interesting point (making the assumption that I'm the only one who finds the previous paragraph interesting) is that for the first 4-500 years of its usage it was a singular noun.  Meaning you could only have one, by definition.  Much like the concept of Nemesis.  (I know.  I need to let that one go.)  Somewhere around the end of the 1900s we, as a culture, just kind of decided that it was possible to have more than one most important thing and that we'd all, individually, just have to try to work our own crap out to the best of our ability.  I suspect if we dig far enough there's a way to blame Henry Ford for it.  Call that a homework assignment.

In any case.  I think that there's a significant case for us all agreeing to let the original definition stand.

Priority:  You get one.

Which means that if you make me your priority, and I make me my priority, you are no ones' priority.

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