By Any Other Name: Mail v Post
Updated: Jun 23, 2021
As some readers may be aware, I've lived in Dublin Ireland since 2018. There are some natural culture shocks to adjust to but as a philatelist and letter lover I still struggle with the debate between "Mail" and "Post" on the daily! Forget "trashcan" or "bin", "trunk" or "boot", and even "cookie" or "biscuit" it's "Mail" verses "Post" that I still stumble over.
So that got me thinking: Where does this difference come from? In today's blog we'll take a look at the etymology of "Mail" and "Post". Thanks for joining us!
In the U.S.A. We Say...
Mail! This word it turns out is the root of the matter. "Mail" can be traced back to the Medieval times, when "male" (different from "a male") meant a traveling bag or pack. Fun fact for those interested in the Irish connection here "mála" is the Irish term for bag. This supports the history that Mail came first.
Until the 19th Century "Mail" referred to letters and evolved to "Mailbag" for the sack with which mail was delivered. I've written a bit about the history of the Mail service in the U.S. here after I visited the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum in Washington D.C.
If you're a letter lover it is a great spot! And thankfully not nearly as crowded as other D.C. museums (former Smithsonian volunteer here, speaking from experience!).
If you're like me and find all this interesting, which I imagine you might be if you've read this far (hello!) I'm still wondering how "Post" came about?
It's all Medieval.
It was in the 1800s that "Mail" began to refer to letters which went abroad, or on a ship, and "Post" emerged for domestic or local letters. Again there's Medieval roots with "poste" from the Latin for "ponere" a verb meaning to lay down place.
So there you have it! In North America it's "Mail", "Mailmen/Mailwomen" but "Post" Offices. In the U.K. and Ireland it's "Post", "Postman/Postlady" and "Post" Offices.
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Something here strike your interest? Have a letter story you'd like to share? Write to us at email@example.com today!