Sway: Archaic Definition

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Tuesday, February 11, 1913:  We are trying to get a program in sway for our next meeting.

diary.2.11.13.a

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Hmm…How do you get a “program in sway”? What were they trying to do?

On February 7, 1913 Grandma wrote that she was elected president of the Literary Society.  I think that she and the other officers were trying to pull together the program for the next meeting.

According to the Free Online Dictionary, sway can be either a verb or a noun. One meaning for the noun is “control”. So in other words, they were trying to get the program under control.

13 Responses

  1. Sway can simply mean to govern. However another use it to influence in one direction. Hopefully they got their program in sway.

  2. Another example of how our language has changed over the years…

  3. I can remember my Mom using this form of the word… she’d say, I have to get things in sway before next weekend, meaning under control. I think it refers to the regular ‘sway’ of a pendulum and regularity is the goal. Jane

  4. Delightful “old age” terminology which “rings a bell”… but not sure where it’s coming from. Oh yes!!! am remembering now hearing people saying they had “sway” (influence) over a decision :-) … Thanks for bringing back this memory Sheryl.

  5. A Wonderful word! Is there a dictionary of archaic words like that? Would love to browse.

    • I don’t know of a dictionary of archaic words–but if there was such a dictionary it would be fun to read. I’ve just been using the regular online dictionaries–and look for meanings labeled “archaic”.

  6. From what I’ve read so far, 100 years ago they spoke (and wrote) very differently. You might be on to something with the ‘control’ the topic…..mmmmm maybe just ‘getting it going’?

  7. I love how words evolve, how they have been used and being used now — thanks for the bit on Sway.

  8. Each time you post her handwriting, it takes me a moment to decipher it, and that’s with help from you…How’d you read her writing? (rhetorical question) ;-)

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