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Deltiology – Wacky Word Wednesday

Whether sent as a cop-out “gift” or as a sweet wish-you-were-here sentiment, for many travelers, all roads lead to postcards. Today’s Wacky Word Wednesday, a weekly celebration of the wackiest and most interesting words from around the world, takes a look into the history of postcards and how they have been redefined in recent years.

The definition of today’s wacky word from TermWiki.com:

quo top

del·ti·ol·o·gy

[del-tee-oluh-jee]

-noun

the collection and study of postcards, usually as a hobby

quo botDeltiology

Deltiology comes from the Greek word, deltion or deltos, a writing tablet or letter. A deltiologist refers to an individual who  collects or studies postcards. On a related note, philately is the study of stamps, postal history, and all things related. It is also important to note the difference between postcard and postal card, the former requiring a stamp and the latter manufactured with pre-printed postage.

Interestingly enough, deltiology is said to be the third largest hobby worldwide, with stamp and money collecting leading the pack. In 2010, over 3 billion postcards were handled by the U.S. Postal Service alone.

Originally thought to have originated from Germany, Austria, or the United States, in 2002 deltiologist Edward Proud discovered that the postcard was actually an English invention. The first of its kind was created in 1840 by Theodore Hook, a clever and eccentric writer who was a fan of practical jokes. Proud’s discovery gave the United Kingdom final ownership over the origins of this time-old hobby.

Believed to have sent the postcard to himself, Hook’s postcard is telling of his personality: a hand-colored caricature of postal service workers sitting around an inkwell. In 2002, Hook’s postcard was auctioned off, and sold for £31,750 to Eugene Gomberg of Latvia, a presumably passionate (and wealthy) collector.

Postcards have come a long way since Hook’s time. Travel writer Kevin Richberg was inspired by the “romanticism behind the postcard” and has dedicated 2011 to visiting 30 places suggested to him from postcards he has received over time. If you’re intrigued by Richberg’s idea, head over to the 30 Postcards Project blog to follow him on his adventure.

Postcards also expanded to take on another meaning in 2005 when Frank Warren formed PostSecret. The concept behind this project is to have people anonymously mail homemade postcards to Warren, with their deepest secrets revealed on them. These secrets range from embarrassing to heartfelt, containing confessions of regrets, hopes, and dreams, with the single thread of truth connecting them all. Select postcards would then be published on the website or in PostSecret books. (Disclaimer: given the nature of secrets, we do not encourage visiting the site during a time when, say, your boss could be walking past…See…I was doing research!)

Do you have any crazy collections? Or any deep, dark secrets to share? Tell all below!

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