The 1998 film featuring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan of (almost) the same title changed the way people used the phrase… For centuries, “mail” referred to letters that were hand delivered or placed in one’s mailbox. In fact, I quote from Wikipedia:
“The word mail comes from the Medieval English word male, referring to a travelling bag or pack. It was spelled that way until the 17th century, and is distinct from the word male. The French have a similar word, malle for a trunk or large box, and mála is the Irish term for a bag. In the 17th century, the word mail began to appear as a reference for a bag that contained letters: “bag full of letter” (1654). Over the next hundred years the word mail began to be applied strictly to the letters themselves, and the sack as the mailbag.”
I used to collect postage stamps as a kid, and had hundreds of them (not sure where all those albums went actually) so it’s interesting to note that we have been using postage stamps on our mail for almost 2 centuries… So it was definitely a bit of nostalgia that drew me to all these wonderful mailboxes (of the last two centuries type) while walking through small towns all over Alba in Northern Italy.
I guess I miss the anticipation, the joy of checking my mailbox and finding real (not junk) mail there. A letter carefully written, taking note of the penmanship, quality of paper, type of pen, the well-thought out content with the occasional crossed out word or words, and folding the paper just so to return the letter into the envelope… I could tell which letters came from my grandmother, parents, family, friends, etc. My college mailbox on campus saw an occasional letter from home halfway around the world, something that I would answer and only receive a reply to almost a month later. I got lots of typewritten rejection letters from potential employers in my mailbox, and an occasional phenomenal offer letter that made up for all the previous rejections. I guess I just miss real mail.
Email is so much more efficient, I will grant it that. But it is often soul-less. Now if only they had virtual mailboxes as gorgeous as these, maybe that would be the happy medium. :)
P.S. That post it note on the last mailbox is a message from the delivery man with a box ordered from Amazon.com. It tells the recipient that he/she came by, no one answered the bell, and it wouldn’t fit in the mailbox, so to call them so they could return to drop it off… I know, I read it, no? :)