Word Nerd

I fall in love with words. My current word-affair is with traipse, and I’ve been speaking it furtively as well as conspicuously in reference to the Italy trip.

Apparently, traipse is an uncommon word. According to one of my favorite books, The Oxford English Dictionary (OED), it belongs in Frequency Band 3, meaning it occurs between .01 and .1 times per million words in modern English usage.

The Anglo-Saxons referred to a person’s “word-hoard,” and when speakers “unlocked” their “word-hoard,” it meant thinking of the right words to say. My own word-hoard includes traipse, and my meaning for it is similar to the OED’s definition “to walk about aimlessly or needlessly.” However, I am being anachronistic here: traipse wasn’t in the Anglo-Saxons’ collective word-hoard; it first appears in English around the late sixteenth century. Historically, only women and children traipsed, but as women entered and children entered then exited the work force, it’s become a non-gendered word.

When I think of traipsing around Italy, I imagine not carrying my phone in my hand with my head bent into it, not responding to school email, and not liking someone’s Facebook post as I traipse. I imagine visually sipping from all of the sights in my immediate landscape to the horizon. I see the cobblestone and imagine myself not falling (I’m not a fan of gravity). I see the skyline marked by the magnificent Duomo. I see cafes and trattoria. I see paintings and sculptures in buildings and cathedrals built before Columbus sailed the ocean blue.


Part of the origin of traipse includes a kind of “trampling” or “tramping,” and I don’t plan to trample anything in my one-month adoptive country. If I’m ever tramping, it’s only because I’m an uncouth American and haven’t yet immersed myself in that particular aspect of the culture. When I traipse, I’ll do my best to do so while I also mind my etiquette.

Until the traipsing begins, ciao!

Work Cited

“traipse | trapes, v.” OED Online. Oxford UP, March 2016. Web. 19 May 2016.

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