messages

Discuss word origins and meanings.

messages

Post by MDW » Fri May 11, 2007 1:47 pm

In Scotland 'Mesages' means to do the shopping - where does this originate from - help!!
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Post by Bobinwales » Fri May 11, 2007 7:03 pm

Welcme Mark,
I have no idea of the origin, but I was sent to the shop on messages when I was a boy in Wales. I haven't heard it in a while though perhaps it has died out with the advent of the supermarket.
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Post by Erik_Kowal » Fri May 11, 2007 7:43 pm

In Scotland, "to go a message" means "to run an errand", which does not necessarily involve shopping. As the questioner rightly says, the 'shopping' connotation involves pluralizing 'message' to 'messages', e.g. "to go the messages". "To mak [or ma] (a) message" means "to carry out an errand, deliver a message".

According to my Chambers Concise Scots Dictionary, the 'errand' sense dates from the late 18th C, the 'shopping' sense from the 20th.
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Post by Liam - Galway » Sun May 13, 2007 9:33 pm

In Ireland, it's still in common usage and nearly always in the context of shopping. It can be used both in the singular & plural, as in 'would you run for a message / the messages'.

Have no idea where it originates from unless there is a connection to a messenger-boy. This would have been the common term in usage when shops delivered to houses on big, heavy bicycles with a large basket on the front...
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Post by Ken Greenwald » Tue May 15, 2007 7:08 am

Mark et al, The earliest example of MESSAGE in the sense you are interested is, indeed, Scottish (1788), but the origin of that usage is not entirely clear (at least to me). ‘Messenger boy’ first appeared in print later (1832) originally as a nautical term (i.e. ‘a member of a ship's company employed to carry orders or carry out minor errands’).

Here is the Oxford English Dictionary MESSAGE(S):

MESSAGE noun Chiefly Scottish, Irish English, New Zealand, and Caribbean: A shopping expedition; an errand to a shop; to do (also go, run, etc.) the messages: to do the shopping. Hence: a purchased item; (in plural, except in the Caribbean) groceries.
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And here is the Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang MESSAGE(S):

MESSAGE noun [1910s and still in use] (Irish): A small purchase: thus messenger-boy, one who delivers such purchases.
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In some of the following quotes it is tough to tell which of the above definitions is meant:
<1788 “Janet Baxter . . . said she was OUT A MESSAGE about eight o'clock on the evening of the robbery.”—‘Caledonian Magazine,’ September, page 516>

<1903 “A'd tae keep the bairn at hame tae RIN THE MESSIGES.”—‘Mrs. McCraw’ by S. MacPlowter, iv. page 20>

<1950 “You went for the MESSAGES this morning.”—‘Our Street’ by B. Sutton-Smith, ii. page 33>

<1952 “Hurry up, man. Look other people in the shop who want MESSAGE.”—‘A Brighter Sun’ by S. Selvon, ix. page 180> [[set in Trinidad where the singular ‘message’ meant ‘groceries’]]

<1987 “Sometimes [she] left me a five-pound note but I made sure always to spend it on MESSAGES for the house.”—‘Give Them Stones’ by M. Beckett, xxi. page 149>

<1991 “Mr Mangan sent . . . Pascal down to the shops for a MESSAGE.”—‘Cowboys & Indians’ (1992) by J. O’Connor, page 169>

<2000 “WHEN I go out for necessities these days, I no longer go grocery shopping in the store. Now I hit the shops and DO THE MESSAGES, where I don't stand on line at the checkout but join a queue. I pay by cheque rather than check, . . .”—‘Irish Voice,’ 20 June> [[BTW, this article had to be written by a native of NYC because they are the only folks in the world who stand on line instead of ‘in line.’]]

<2002 “There is nothing in this report that says this will be the final amount. If people think we can't RUN THE MESSAGES without getting the change wrong, it is hardly going to boost respect for or trust in the Parliament . . .”—‘Daily Record’ (Glasgow, Scotland), 5 October>

<2004 “I have to go DO A MESSAGE, today; would you like to join me or would you prefer to stay here?”—‘The News Letter’ (Belfast, Northern Ireland), 13 March>

<2006 “The High Court in Edinburgh heard that Fairholm told officers: I was asked to DO A MESSAGE for someone.”—‘Daily Record’ (Glasgow, Scotland), 21 April>
(Oxford English Dictionary and archived sources)
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Ken G – May 13, 2007
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Post by hsargent » Tue May 15, 2007 1:44 pm

Wow, message is such a stretch from shopping!

The original question was about mesage with one S. It that possibly the correct spelling for the term being discussed?
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Post by Erik_Kowal » Tue May 15, 2007 5:38 pm

No.
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Post by Ken Greenwald » Tue May 15, 2007 6:10 pm

Harry, I said above that the origin is not entirely clear. But it is not entirely unclear either. Bob's, Erik’s, and my posting suggest that A MESSAGE or THE MESSAGES had its start as ‘running an errand.’ When I was a kid I was often asked to ‘run an errand’ (as Bob also mentioned) for my parents, and sometimes for neighbors, and would be given a list of items (‘a message’) written on a piece of paper to be taken to a butcher shop, grocery store, or drug store to purchase (‘shop for’) the listed items. The list (‘message’) would be handed to the proprietor who would select and bag the items. Often, no money would exchange hands since many had running accounts with the stores. And I guess it doesn’t seem like that large a leap to me to go from shopping by way of the proxy message boy and his ‘message’ / ‘messages’ to ‘shopping expedition’ / ‘do the shopping’ / and ‘purchased items' (e.g. 'groceries’) themselves. So, although no definite explanation has been provided, this would seem to be a reasonable one.
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Post by Erik_Kowal » Tue May 15, 2007 7:05 pm

Some plausible speculation there, Ken. But I think Harry meant 'mesages' vs. 'messages'.
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Post by Ken Greenwald » Tue May 15, 2007 7:48 pm

Erik, Oh, Looking back, I'm now not certain what Harry Ssargent was asking (&lt), but I thought I was responding to the part about MESSAGE being such a stretch from SHOPPING.
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Post by Edwin Ashworth » Mon May 21, 2007 12:31 am

Please call Stella. Ask her to bring these things with her from the store: Six spoons of fresh snow peas, five thick slabs of blue cheese, and maybe a snack for her brother Bob. We also need a small plastic snake and a big toy frog for the kids. She can scoop these things into three red bags, and we will go meet her Wednesday at the train station.
Message ends.
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Post by Erik_Kowal » Mon May 21, 2007 8:11 am

When someone left this message on my answering machine the other day, I didn't have the heart to call them back to tell them they had the wrong number.
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Post by Edwin Ashworth » Mon May 21, 2007 8:15 am

You are not White Bear?
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Post by Erik_Kowal » Mon May 21, 2007 8:37 am

Nor even Shitting Bull.
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Post by Edwin Ashworth » Mon May 21, 2007 9:06 am

Those Indian Call Centres don't always get it right.
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