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When “Messages” Means “Errands” or Going to the Shops

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Irv in Montreal, Canada, says that in his city, English speakers will typically use the word messages where others might use errands, as in I’m going to do some messages. The oldest meaning of the word errand is “message,” “news,” or “tidings.” In modern Scots, someone doing errands is said to go the messages, and a shopping bag might be called a message bag. In Scotland and Ireland, the phrase do the messages may more often mean shopping for someone else rather than oneself, and thanks to migration patterns, this locution is also heard in parts of the Caribbean. In French, faire des commissions, including the French-speaking parts of Canada, can mean “run errands” or “deliver messages.” This is part of a complete episode.

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