So I know what graduation is. But the more I thought about the word, the less I understood about why it had come to be the label for this symbolic event. Surely it has a relation to 'gradual'. And grade? I guess you could say high school's end is approached 'gradually', but it seems like 'culmination' or some other word connoting achievement would be more in order.
Oh, well. It's been a long week. Let's find out.
So basically we have two different kinds of graduation among our definitions. We have the kind that is related to the ceremony of giving or recieving a diploma or degree, and we have the kind that is about measurement on a scale that increases by regular amounts, also called degrees. I would have guessed that making any kind of equation between these two different types of degrees would have been a bad analogy, but apparently they are quite related. According to the online Etymology dictionary, the term had a special significance in alchemy, which in the early 15th century meant 'tempering or refining something to a certain degree'. It was at this time that the 'action of giving or receiving a degree' came into usage. Though I was unable to come up with a true etymology, it does seem as though the graduation ceremony as we think of it today has that sense of refining or tempering a person to a different degree than when they started rather than being so much about the gradual process that proceeded it.
Be that as it may, the interesting thing to me is that both 'graduate' and 'degree', and for that matter 'gradual' and 'grade' all link back to the Latin gradus, or 'step, pace, walk'. This links them to such words as 'congress' and 'progress', and back to that theoretical precursor language, Proto-Indo-European, with ' *ghredh-, which leads us to the Lithuanian gridiju "to go, wander," Old Church Slavonic gredo "to come," and old Irish in-greinn "he pursues."
So many steps, so little time!
Congratulations to you, Evan and Charlie, and to all your cohorts. The following Gaelic blessing may be a bit of a cliche by now, but in this context it seems singularly apt.
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
And to both of you, well done.