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These Names are Made for Walkin’

hiking

Guest blogger LAURIE LICO ALBANESE, who’s chronicling her year’s worth of walks on her blog My Big Walk, ponders names made for strolling the open road.

What do Walker Evans, Sojourner Truth, and Flannery O’Connor have in common?

They’re all Americans. OK, that’s a start.

They all have great names. That’s also true.

They had inspirational lives? Also correct.

But what links this Depression-era photographer (Evans), former slave (Truth), and Southern writer (O’Connor) with people named Journey, Amble, or Voyage? Names like Strider, Skip, March, Hiker, Pacer, Saunter, Trek, Ramble, Lane, Pike, Track, Racer, Skipper, Dash, Lane, Streeter, Strada (Italian for ‘street’) also fit the bill.

Still stumped? Saunter, in French, is Flanerie. Mais oui, c’est vrai.  (Translation: but yes, it’s true!)

And Saunter, we learn from Thoreau in his 1850s essay, Walking, has its etymological origins in the Middle Ages, “from idle people who roved about the country…and asked charity, under pretence of going à la Sainte Terre“—to the holy land, till the children exclaimed, “There goes a Sainte-Terrer”, a saunterer—a holy-lander….

Some, however, would derive the word from sans terre, without land or a home, which, therefore, in the good sense, will mean, having no particular home, but equally at home everywhere.” At home anywhere.

If I could choose a single identity for myself, it would be that. A saunterer, at home anywhere.  And everywhere. In fact, that urge to walk the world and see it up close and from the ground is what got me started on My Big Walk, a year-long daily walking project that I’m chronicling on my new blog.

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