I’ve just returned from a week of vacation in the beautiful Outer Banks of North Carolina . . . which means my schedule is bursting with things that need done.

Now, as it happens, I knew from some of my writing projects that schedule would not have been a word used in such a way until fairly recent history. So I thought I’d share some of that today, while I’m battling to get mine into order. 😉

Schedule comes to English via French (“strip of paper with writing on it”), Latin (“strip of paper”), and originally Greek (“splinter or strip”). So even in those moves from language to language we see a progression of the idea, right? When it joined the English tongue in the 14th century, it meant “a ticket, label, or slip of paper with writing on it.” This sense is still preserved in our tax system–the “schedule” being a piece of paper attached to the main document, an appendix.

So how did it come to mean “a plan of procedure”? Well we have the railroads to thank for that. They would employ schedules–slips of paper–with their timetables written on them. Hence, everyone soon called the timetable schedule rather than the paper it was on.

Interestingly, even the pronunciation has changed a lot over the centuries! For hundreds of years, everyone pronounced it “sed-yul.” But the British modified it to “shed-yul” in imitation of the French at some point, while Americans–at the insistence of Webster and his dictionary–reverted to the Greek pronunciation of “sked-yul.”

Now back I go to mine. 😉

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