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Arts & Life

If only we could all be "jet-setters" - the fun kind, that is


There used to be a certain level of glitz and glamour associated with being a jet-setter. A jet-setter might attend a fashion show in Paris, then take off for an exclusive party in Dubai.

But today we often hear jet-setter used to describe someone who simply travels a lot, even if it's from one dimly-lit hotel conference room to another for business.

Regardless of the destination, have you ever wondered why we call someone who flies a lot a "jet-setter" and not a "jet sitter?"

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the "jet set" as a social group of "wealthy and fashionable people, especially those who travel widely and frequently for pleasure." After "jet set" comes into the language, "jet-setter" later becomes a way to refer to someone who is part of that social group.

The OED first cites the noun "jet set" in 1949. Here's an example from 1964: "The jet set has rediscovered St. Tropez." In the late 1950s, we start to see "jet-setter," as in this example: "...all of those jet-setters kicking up their heels in the South of France."

Not an accurate representation of Anne Curzan's work travels.

People have called our own Professor Anne Curzan a jet-setter because of her frequent travels for work. As such, she says she's had to reconsider how she thinks of the term.

"[People] will say, 'Oh, what a jet-setter you are.' Then I'll think 'Huh. I'm not going to the South of France to play,'" Curzan says.

Should "jet-setter" be used exclusively to refer to someone who travels frequently for pleasure? Or can it also refer to someone who simply travels a lot, for business or otherwise? Let us know at language@michiganradio.org.


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