The Creative Exploration of Language


I came across the word peregrination via the Spanish: peregrinación.  I encountered it while reading La biblioteca de Babel by Jorge Luis Borges.  Though I could not provide a concise definition when I first read the word, it was clear from the context that it meant some kind of journey, but two additional connotations sprang to mind.

First, the only other place I had encountered some form of the word peregrination, was in relation to the Peregrine Falcon.  The falcon, being a bird associated with royalty (think of falconing, etc.), has an air of nobility about it that in this case has rubbed off on the other word in the phrase.

Second, the multisyllabic nature of the word peregrination lends it a sense of complexity, of involvement, that turns the initial definition of a ‘journey’ into more of a ‘wandering’.  Indeed, the falcon species was given the designation peregrinus precisely because of its extraordinarily wide-ranging migratory flights.

In a modern setting, peregrination therefore seems to have taken on the sense of a ‘noble wandering’.  This illustrates the reflexive and magnetic properties of language, in which a word connoting a  journey or wandering trip is applied to an animal associated with the concept of nobility, and an echo of this nobility is reflected back onto the original word.

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