There are some phrases that have become so common in our every day speech that we don’t give a second thought when we use them. It has a certain meaning that is easy to describe to our children, for instance, so they pick it up rapidly. However, there are times in which a phrase is so antiquated it is difficult to easily explain.
Years ago we had a friend who was a Japanese physicist that worked at MSU in the Cyclotron lab. We met him when he came to our Ju Jitsu classes, which we taught just off campus. Nakamura-san was a great guy, and we fast became friends even with the language barrier. My husband and I had plans to travel to Japan, so we decided that Nakamura-san would teach us Japanese in exchange for our “expertise” in the English language. Basically, we would show up once a week and he would have saved up all the various sayings and clichés he had heard during the week and would ask that we not only explain to him what they meant but where they came from. Talk about a challenge! At times it was far easier to learn the Japanese language, then it was to explain to someone who wasn’t raised in the states the meaning of some phrases.
When I was thinking of my post tonight, one such antiquated phrase came to mind. I routinely refer to the hustle and bustle of my life, but when I actually stopped to think about its etymology I was stumped. I started, of course, to research the term and actually had great difficulty finding any plausible explanations for the origination of the phrase. I read everything from it meant to adjust your dress to get a move on, to a large amount of work in a noisy surrounding. I finally ran across one forum where a Carol P. responded that
The word ‘hustle’ first appeared in English in 1684 borrowed from the Dutch word ‘hutselen’ meaning to shake. The meaning of the word changed to hurry or move quickly in 1812 and developed in American English as ‘hustle’ in the year 1840.The word ‘bustle’ stems from Old English ‘bersten’ and made its debut in Middle English in about 1350. ‘Bersten’ meant to act vigorously, to thrash about. Earlier origin is from the Old Icelamdic word ‘beysta’ meaning to beat.
I guess if you are talking about a saying that has been around for hundreds of years, and most likely warped along the way in its use, this particular definition strikes me as the best. This would be a closer interpretation to how I view my life at times – moving quickly in a vigorous manner. Not sure I do a great deal of thrashing in my life, unless you count my current desire to learn jazz.
This past week has been even more chaotic than normal, and I venture to say that I went above and beyond any mere “hustling and bustling”. This past week has been more of an all out race, on a road full of twists and turns, in the rain, on cobblestones. Yes, it really has been that painful, difficult, and wearing. I’m glad to have gotten through it – I actually prefer a day where I am moving quickly in a vigorous manner then a day where I am can’t catch my breath. Give me energy, excitement, the busy and the noisy. I love the hustle and bustle of my life – it makes me feel alive and full of purpose. The chaos of my mind is momentary stilled by the activity it is involved in. That, right there, is worth all the definitions of hustle and bustle put together.
Go forth, enjoy… be busy!
P.S. It was brought to my attention that if hustle means shake, and a bustle has to do with the back of a woman’s skirt… then it must mean “Shake Your Booty!” So… maybe I need to revise my last statement to:
Go forth, enjoy…. shake your booty!!