Verbal Energy

On the rebound after a deeply moving experience.

A household move reminds the Monitor's language columnist how short words can be the most intense.

By

I've just been through an experience that more than one person has reminded me is considered one of the three most stressful life events. I've just moved.

Just moved house, one might also say. But that's a British idiom that isn't really much used here in the United States.

We use move all the time in any number of senses. We say that traffic is moving, or moving slowly, or not at all. Someone makes his move. Troops are on the move – advancing toward the front line, presumably. We may speak of a person as "on the move" – often to refer to someone's progress professionally, or in some other endeavor.

Recommended: The 50 best movies of all time

The International Organization for Migration, an intergovernmental body based in Switzerland, says, "Migration is considered one of the defining global issues of the early twenty-first century, as more and more people are on the move today than at any other point in human history. There are now about 192 million people living outside their place of birth, which is about three per cent of the world's population."

A lot of people on the move, truly, and not always for happy reasons.

We've all been told to "get a move on" – that expression goes back to 1888. More recently, Gomer Pyle's irascible drill instructor used to tell him, "Move it! Move it! Move it!"

Now first lady Michelle Obama is pushing her "Let's Move!" campaign, described as "America's move to raise a healthier generation of kids."

But as a standalone, unmodified intransitive verb, move tends to refer to a change of residence. The "move house" idiom that Americans don't use, they seem not to miss.

Sometimes it's the shortest words that refer to the most intense experiences. Love. Work. Freud's two essentials – both of which are nouns and verbs, by the way. Ditto move.

Moving can indeed be an emotional experience. In fact, the word emotion itself is rooted in the idea of "moving out." It originally (back in the 1570s) referred to social unrest or civil disturbance. By the 1650s, it referred to strong feelings. By the early 19th century, "emotions" were pretty much any old feelings.

We speak of being "deeply moved," after a stirring performance, for instance. That sounds like a truncated kind of idiom, short for an implicit "moved to tears" or some such. But the Online Etymology Dictionary states that this sense of move goes back to 1300 or so. The sense "to prompt or impel toward some action" came in about a hundred years later. The sense of "changing place of residence" didn't come along until 1707. Evidently more people tended to stay put before then. It wasn't so easy in those days just to pack up your treasures in bubble wrap and hit the road.

There's a whole family of "mo" words in English, including move, descended from the Latin movere, meaning to move or to set in motion. Motor, a noun in both English and Latin, is one. Motion is another. Its parliamentary sense goes back earlier (to 1747) than the sense of a wave of the hand ("motioning for the waiter to come over").

I'm contemplating all this now that I'm thick in the Boxes Everywhere phase. Sets of salt and pepper shakers, sugar bowl and cream pitcher, and the like are being liberated from packaging and reunited like refugee families amid the chaos of the international arrivals hall of an airport.

By the way, is there anyone out there who can use some leftover bubble wrap?

Share this story:
 
 
Make a Difference
Inspired? Here are some ways to make a difference on this issue.
Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.
 

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...