My Word | What a party

What a Party

I was participating  in pre-Christmas parties, you know the type?  Where everybody gets drunk and the next day says what a great time we had.

I don’t think I got drunk. I can’t remember.

What's in a Word: It meant a side in a dispute, a body of persons, a gang of prisoners, as well as a political party and a really good Christmas or birthday party.

What's in a Word: It meant a side in a dispute, a body of persons, a gang of prisoners, as well as a political party and a really good Christmas or birthday party.

But it did set me thinking about the number of parties we can have.

My big dictionary has four pages devoted to parties – not counting other words that include party.

They even had a proposal of marriage.

I was surprised at the number of meanings for party.

The word goes back to at least 1290.

But it was also spelt parti, partie and a host of other spellings but it generally meant a division, such as  a share or allotment.

It also meant a part of the world.

It meant a side in a dispute, a body of persons, a gang of prisoners, as well as a political party and  a really good, or not so good, Christmas or birthday party or “let’s have  a party”.

The word came from the latin partiri, which meant “divide” and led to the English word part.

John Ayto says other words include bipartite and tripartite  and the musical term partita.

The word can also refer to individuals. 

In The Practice of Piety, published in 1638, appear the Words “when the sick party is departing, let the faithfull tbat are present kneel down and commend his soul to God”.

Several other sites refer to individuals.

Reader’s Digest says party has limited use in individual cases, such as in “your party is not answering”.

Webster’s in  long article talks of a number of persons united in  single view.

Collins talks about party, but throws in party pieces, where somebody decides to entertain people.

The two sides in a tournament make up a party.

Alexanded Pope in a letter said “a curse on the word party, which I have been forced to use so often in this period”.

I get the impression he didn’t like the word party.

Telephone subscribers also had party lines, as Australian subscribers well know. 

My big dictionary quotes W Gaddis as saying in a letter “I think we got  a crossed wire; would the other parties mind hanging up?”

But there were plenty of those, not that admissions were plentiful.

My Macquarie dictionary say party is a group gathered together “for some purpose” such as amusement or entertainment.

But it includes other words, such as party animal, party cited, party coloured, party hack, party ice, party man, party line, party pie, party plan, party politics, party pooper, party spirit and party wall. 

I have never heard of some of them.

Then there are party girl and,  according to John Ayto, party which means something else, but I can’t  mention it because the editor might keel over in a dead faint.

Gregory Titelman gave a description of the party’s over – which he described as no more graft.

And I was having such a good time too.

Writing on the Wall

I started writing this weekly newspaper column 23 years ago.

It started because somebody at work asked me what a milliard was.

I answered him to the best of my ability.

I recall that the Americans were using billion for the same number and it was causing much confusion in Australia.

So I decided to write about it. Then people started telling me of their pet hates. And it is still going more then 1150 columns later.

Books in print Please Print for Country Press Australia and My Word, Ringo and the historical book Massacre at Myall Creek for Sid Harta Publishers. 

Learn more about the language and visit...

lauriebarber.com or email lbword@midcoast.com.au