Journey Proud

Are we there yet?  HuhHuhHuh?

Dear Word Detective:  My mother is fond of calling the nervousness one feels the night or day before a trip as being “journey proud.”  She says it is a Virginia (especially Richmond) anachronism, but I cannot find its derivation anywhere.  I would appreciate your help on this matter. — Clay Witt.

Good question.  I hadn’t heard “journey proud” before, but it’s a great expression, and I certainly know the feeling.  I remember as a kid being so wound up the day before we went on vacation that I couldn’t sleep.  As a matter of fact, I don’t remember sleeping once we were on the road, either.  I do remember sneaking over to the motel room window at 3 a.m. to watch the trucks roar by.

“Journey proud” is indeed considered archaic today, but it’s not all that ancient.  As recently as 1972, the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) reported that the expression was said to be a common “Old South” locution still occasionally heard.  But “journey proud” must have been more widespread in the US at one point, because the earliest citation for it in DARE, from 1891, is “I have heard New Englanders speak of a person as ‘journey-proud,’ meaning that one is so elated on the eve of a journey as to care nothing for food.”  The phrase was also common in England during the same period (“In Cheshire, .. a village good-wife, describing her farm-labourer husband’s first visit to Manchester, declared that he was ‘that journey-proud that he couldn’t eat a bite o’ breakfast’,” 1908).

The “journey” in “journey proud” means simply “trip,” but the “proud” differs slightly from the normal meaning of the word, which the American Heritage Dictionary defines as “Feeling pleasurable satisfaction over an act, possession, quality, or relationship by which one measures one’s stature or self-worth.”  The “proud” in “journey proud” is an older English dialect sense lacking the normal self-congratulatory aspects of “proud” and meaning simply “very pleased and excited” (“She will be proud to have her tooth stop aching,” 1895).  There is, however, a secondary meaning of “journey proud,” which first appeared in the 1950s, which employs the modern “I’m wonderful” sense of “proud” and means “conceited because one has traveled.”

“Journey,” by the way, is an interesting word in itself, derived from the Old French “journee,” meaning “a day’s work or travel,” and ultimately from the Latin “diurnus,” meaning “of one day” or “daily.”  A “journey” was thus originally the distance that could be traveled in one day, or, later, in a specified number of days (“a three day journey”).  This original “by the day” sense of “journey” persists in the term “journeyman,” meaning a worker who has served an apprenticeship and works for hire by the day.  The term thus has nothing to do with wandering from town to town looking for work.

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