Chapel chapter and verse
WITH re-recognition rampant and strikes
being won all over the place
by members' organisations in local newspaper offices, the
Freelance is suddenly spotted with the word for one of them:
the "Chapel". So why do we use this word? Call the Freelance
paranoid if you like - on the square, we're not really - but doesn't it have a
slightly funny-handshake flavour?
What it does have is the kind of obscure origin that can keep subs (and other
necessary professional pedants) arguing for hours. It's generally agreed to
come from printers' parlance - after all, they've been organised since roughly
1453 and the NUJ was founded in 1907. But where did they get it?
The Freelance has dug up three theories.
First, the sartorial: printers used to keep the ink out of their hair by
wearing a folded paper hat - that'd be a capella in Italian or chapeau in modern French, and something inbetween in Genoa at
the time. The English, as ever, mangled it. "Almost certainly wrong"
say the etymology enthusiasts at www.takeourword.com
Next, the architectural: much early printing was done in monasteries. The
new-fangled technology was installed in spare corners of the establishment
- like those subsidiary rooms of worship off the main church called chapels.
So a chapel is where the inkies are, and where they meet. And "chapel"
is from the mediæval Latin capella, a little cloak - because,
says the Concise Oxford Dictionary, the first chapel was "a sanctuary in
which St Martin's sacred cloak was preserved". How they'd do that when
his claim to fame was giving half to a beggar, we leave to the theologians.
Finally, the conspiratorial: "In order to overcome the provisions of
the law governing cessation of work and outside assemblage, the printers
took advantage of the prevailing religious tendencies and designated their
workroom as a 'Chapel' or house of Worship," says the history of the
Winnipeg Trades and Labour Council at www.mts.net/~mum/hist1.html.
Honest, this isn't a strike, it's an extended period of deep meditation.
Though we'd love the last to be true - and it may have been, somewhere at
some time - we have to conclude that freelances should get in touch with their