London courier appreciation day, Thursday 26th November
17.11.09 by Buffalo Bill
The London Courier Emergency Fund, which is the organisation that helps out couriers who have been injured whilst working, is promoting a courier appreciation day on 26th November. They will be handing out free coffee and food to working couriers at the junction of Shaftesbury Avenue and Bloomsbury Street, aka the Island, aka Princes Circus. Exenger Ross, of Tour de Ville, will be doing free bike check-ups, and no doubt you will be able to buy a LCEF cap, whether you are a messenger or courier or simply a civilian.
Of course, messenger appreciation day in North America is 9th October, or 10-9 according to their backwards ways. 10-9 is the code for ‘say again’ or ‘what?’, and this date that was chosen nearly 20 years by members of the San Francisco Bicycle Messenger Association for their Messenger Appreciation Day. Many cities in North America celebrate their messengers, and some cities, including Washington D.C., Toronto & Portland, have made official proclamations, and in 2002, the United Nations designated 9th October ‘World Post Day’, which may or may not be connected to Messenger Appreciation Day. I mean, did you know that worldwide mail services deliver nearly 445 billion letters every year? Crikey!
Anyway, I am happy to see courier/messenger appreciation day revived in London, whatever the date is.
Whilst I am writing an article about couriers and messengers and using the two terms side by side, it always amuses me to wonder whether there is a real difference between the two words ‘courier’ and ‘messenger’.
Looking in my Chambers 21st Century dictionary, courier is defined as:
noun 1 a guide who travels with and looks after, parties of tourists. 2 a messenger.
and messenger is defined as:
noun 1 someone who carries communications between people; a courier. 2 someone who performs errands.
so in other words, interchangeable. Personally, I only started using messenger in preference to courier when I helped to organise the 1994 Cycle Messenger World Championships, and then only for the sake of uniformity. For what it is worth, although the denomination messenger is undoubtedly an americanism, the Cycle Messenger Championships ‘brand’ was conceived by Achim Beier of Berlin, the promoter of the very first messenger championships. No doubt it is no accident that his company is called ‘messenger’. I know for a fact that he was fascinated by the New York messenger phenomenon, so even this was ultimately an americanism. (More about the birth of messenger championships over here).
Moving Target used to be described as a ‘well funky cc-zine’, whereas now it is described as ‘the world’s most useless messenger ‘zine’.
However, many London messengers and exengers bristle at being described as a ‘messenger’ (I am thinking particularly of Von and Winston). They find, I think, the word ‘messenger’, with its connotations of service demeaning, which is probably a British class hangover. I think in Winston’s case, he also objects to the word as an americanism. Personally, I always accepted that I had (and have – I sit behind a desk, but it’s still all about moving stuff around at other people’s beck and call) a menial job, but always felt that there was a certain value in actually doing something physical. And, as the old joke goes, I didn’t really care what I was called, as long as it wasn’t late for dinner.
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