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.

18 comments on this post.
  1. John T. Wilcox:

    My mother (born 1897 in middle Georgia) used that expression, “journey proud,” in the sense Clay Witt asked about: “I hardly slept last night, I was so journey proud”–meaning nervous about the upcoming trip. But my wife, born near Atlanta and much interested in local language, had never heard the expression until she married me. There is a lady in my home town in south Georgia, born in 1909 and now 100 years old and still mentally sharp, who says she never heard the expression until I asked her about it today, 09/25/2009. PS: Is “Clay Witt” a pseudonymn? It’s a great name for a clever fellow from the country, especially if he is from a clayey part of the country, like south Georgia.

  2. clay witt:

    No, Mr. Wilcox, Clay Witt is my name, and my family is from Virginia and Kentucky.

  3. Mary:

    My mother said “journey proud” at any occasion of a tripShe also said “land o Goshen” and my yankee brother in law thought she was saying “atlantic ocean. She had many others as well. She was raised in N Florida by a mother from SC.

  4. Dale Williams:

    My 72-year-old cousin, from a small North Carolina town, used this phrase yesterday, which led me to this site.
    I’m 62 and from the same town but had never heard the phrase before. Thanks for the education!

  5. Janet Krohn:

    My mother, born and bred in MS, always used this expression when the family was headed on a road trip. I, too, use it to mean that I can’t sleep for being so excited over what the journey will bring.

  6. Peter Logan:

    My mother used “journey proud.” She grew up on a Kansas farm in the 20’s and 30’s. After introducing it, its become a favorite of some of my friends, here on Cape Cod.

  7. Peter Logan:

    My friend who loves to say, “journey proud,” coined a new phrase this morning. He said he couldn’t sleep last night because he was, “work proud.”

  8. William Taylor:

    I am from Eastern NC and I have heard the expression “journey proud” all of my life. However, the meaning of the phase in this locality usually referred to someone who comes back excited from a trip who can’t stop talking about it.

  9. Victoria Solt Dennis:

    My mother always confidently diagnosed any queasiness or ‘feeling funny’ on the eve of a trip as ‘journey pride’. She was born (in 1921) and bred in West Essex, on the outskirts of London, but her mother came from Somerset in the West Country. That may be significant, becaus the Oxford English Dictionary cites this from the London Times of 21 Dec 193: “‘Journey-pride’..will be familiar to your west-country readers”.

  10. Steve:

    Anne Morrow Lindbergh references this phrase in her book “Listen, The Wind”. She attributes this to her New England ancestors.

  11. Jean:

    My grandmother used the term “journey proud” to describe the inability to sleep the night before a trip (or journey). She grew up in Western NY, but spent her married life in FL.

  12. angela box:

    The sweet black man who worked for my grandfather near Pine Bluff, Arkansas used the term during my childhood in the 1950s.

  13. Jeanie:

    My father, born in 1916 in Stewart County, Georgia used that expression. His ancestors came from Virginia.

  14. Bruno:

    “Pumped up” or “stoked,” in current parlance. (The excitement and fitful sleep, of course, are symptoms.)

  15. Ben:

    My uncle Charlie, who himself grew up in the Piedmont of Georgia, used this phrase when I was a boy in the 50’s. My family continues to use it–really glad to know that we are not alone.

  16. Hal O'Brien:

    At Midland School, we’ve used “journey proud” since the mid-1970’s, at least, and I suspect it goes back to the founding Headmaster in the 1930’s. Because it’s a boarding school, and most of its students live in either Los Angeles or San Francisco and thus take a Greyhound bus home for vacations, “journey proud” refers to the feeling a student has before going home. Think of it as a lower-key form of “senioritis,” and one wouldn’t be too far off.

  17. Becca Knox:

    My family from the SW of Virginia uses this term to mean the queasy, unable-to-sleep feelings of the day before a trip. My great-grandmother suffered terribly from the affliction and we learned the term from her.

  18. David Montgomery:

    My mother was born in 1914 in rural piedmont North Carolina and she used this expression frequently. Traveling anywhere away from home was a big deal when she was growing up and she said that she could never sleep the night before a planned departure. This did not change much as she grew older. She told me once that when she was in her early 20’s , she and three girl friends had planned to go the the beach and the night before they were going to leave, they all agreed that they wouldn’t sleep that night, so they went ahead and left at midnight. The lack of cell phones or even AAA didn’t prevent being journey proud from putting them on the road.

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