Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Turns out, "wait" has a wonderfully rich history of definition. Entries on the word span 5 pages in my old OED. The first definition clues me in that something is going on here: "In various phrases with the general sense: To take up a concealed position in order to make an unforeseen attack, or to be in readiness to intercept one's enemy or intended prey in passing; to lurk in ambush."
Perhaps our Advent waiting is more than just killing time until Christmas--delaying the celebration so that we can have had the appropriate (and probably holy) period of restraint.
Maybe the kind of "waiting" that a waiter does is more apt--tending to, preparing for, watching for Christ's coming.
But there are other fabulous definitions of wait. My favorites involve music: first, in 1300, a watchman who would sound an alarm by horn or trumpet. Then, by 1430, a watchman attached to the royal household who would sound the royal trumpets. In 1438, it was used for a small band of wind instrumentalists, kept by a city for festive occasions, often strolling the streets. In 1773, it was used for a band of musicians and singers who would roam the streets near Christmas and the New Year, playing carols and seasonal music (!).
Waiting, in most of the 5 pages of entries, is much more than mere delay. It implies watchfulness and readiness for something big happening. Maybe there's even trumpets.
Posted by Molly Vetter at 10:20 AM