The other day a client observed that she is spending more time lately preparing meals. Living out of the city, she isn’t passing by the salad place or the pizza shop to pick up dinner on her way home from the office, or when out running errands.
Meals must be considered, planned, and prepped. And then you’ve got to eat and then wash the dishes.
It all takes time. Time she hadn’t previously factored into her schedule. It’s an observation I’ve heard often and noticed in my own life.
I spent the afternoon running errands: picking up groceries for the week, filling up the car with gas, and other mundane components of daily life that must get done but that often don’t get factored into a weekly plan.
It’s stuff that needs to get done, but it rarely feels “productive.”
Technically I wasn’t running errands because I was driving, but running errands is the expression.
I wonder why that is and decided to investigate.
Where Does “Running Errands” Come From?
The Cambridge dictionary defines the expression run errands as
According theDaily Writing Tips website,
The word errand is most commonly used in the sense of a short journey taken to perform some necessary duty. Some examples of errands are: taking or fetching clothes from the cleaners; taking mail to the post office; filling the car with fuel, taking sacks of leaves to the compost center, etc.
The word errand comes from Old English ærende “message, mission.” The message was usually carried by a servant or low-ranking soldier.
The Online Etymology Dictionary confirms the origination of errands from the Old English ærende. It adds that this originally spoke to important missions. In Old English, ærendgast was “angel,” ærendraca was “ambassador.”
I couldn’t find a source explaining the origination of the expression running errands, although admittedly, I did not do an exhaustive search, in part because I was exhausted from running errands.
It’s the little bits and pieces of life management that often drain me the most.
Contemplating the original meaning of errands, I wonder if running errands alluded to the importance of the message or mission. If you’re an ambassador carrying an important message, it would seem fitting to run it over to its destination. Less so a trip to the cleaners or the grocery store.
Why does this even matter?
Perhaps you are wondering: Why is this even relevant? Why is it blogworthy?
The language we use is important. Words convey meaning; they set the tone. Running errands is part of the culture of busy that keeps us detached from ourselves and others and living life on autopilot.
I’m committed to changing my own mindsets around time scarcity, hustle, and other relics of the victim culture reinforced by busy-ness. That shift requires new language.
I’m willing to be in the mystery with the origins of the expression, and also I wonder if we can find a better term for modern day errands. One that doesn’t involve running.