Thursday, September 29, 2011

Save the Endangered Submission!

Save the Endangered Submission

We writers often hear the advice, “You’ll never see your work in print if you’re not submitting.” It’s true. If we don’t send our manuscripts in for consideration, they stand no chance of publication. But really, what’s the deal with submitting? It takes very little imagination to associate this necessary writerly act with sleazy alleyways, whips, chains, and things that throb in the night. But then again, why imagine? Just send your precious work off to one of the Big Six and you’ll get the picture.  

The word submit was originally Latin (submittere), meaning "to yield, lower, let down, put under, or reduce,” from sub, meaning "under," plus mittere, to “let go or send.”  It showed up in the English language during the 1300s.

The noun form, submission, came about in that same century through Old French, meaning “a lowering, sinking, or yielding.” Soon afterward, it gained the meaning, "act of referring to a third party for judgment or decision." Aha! That is what we writers are supposed to be doing all the time, though the modern definition, “to accept or yield to a superior force,” maintains the flavor of the aforementioned whips and chains experience pretty well.

What with the e-revolution going on in the publishing world, it’s possible that the term submission is headed for the proverbial round file. As seedy as submit and its various forms sound, I worry that in this world of e-books and e-mail we might end up replacing submission with something even worse -- the clearly questionable term e-mission.

Thanks to this week’s sources: the OED,, &


  1. Charlie, you've got a winner here with words! Keep at it.

  2. What a treat for us all to have access to your wonderfully fresh and unique perspective. And I'll be looking forward to all this interesting stuff on language. Shuddering with you re: e-mission. :- )

    Mary Hershey

  3. Hi Mary & Jean Ann,
    Thanks for the encouraging words. It's grand having you come by to visit.