Initially, the ability to adequately perform today’s word could have meant the difference between eating or starving, as your very survival might have hung in the balance of your abilities. In the modern world, our word typically revolves around transportation and data scanning along the way. Still, regardless of whether you are hunting to put dinner on the table or desperately trying to find out when those new earbuds will be delivered, today’s word underscores the value of information and the peace of mind it can offer. Tracking may have become less physically vital than in the days when we were hunters and gatherers, but, in many ways, it has become one of the linchpins that holds together the modern world, so it’s time we track down the word tracking.
Originating in the late 15th century simply as the word track, which as a noun means ‘footprint or mark left by anything’ and coming from the Old French trac (as in track of horses), our word likely stems from a Germanic source, as indicated by the Middle Low German treck and the Dutch trek. Half a century after its importation, the noun became the verb of ‘following or tracing the footsteps’ of something, as can be seen in James Calfhill’s An Answer to the Treatise of the Cross (1565), stating that: “You may track him by the foot.” Later, the term would achieve its usage most familiar to us by settling in the middle and becoming a verbal noun, meaning the act of performing the verb, as indicated by the -ing suffix; however, that’s jumping ahead in our story.
With the initial, literal idea of discovering and following the footsteps of something, it wasn’t too long before our word was generalized into denoting movement. A prime example from just a few decades after Calfhill is Robert Greene’s usage in his 1590 work, Greenes Never Too Late, where, discussing following a path, he writes: “Down the valley walk he track, Bag and bottle at his back.”
As our term became further associated with a sort of generalized following as well as movement, it soon came to be identified with marking out specific paths or courses, such as in Elizabethan poet Michael Drayton’s The Barons’ Wars (1603), where he rhymes: “When the straight course to her desire is tracked.”
Now that the concept of being at different stages on a similar path had been identified, we can see it in a number of more modern applications. First and foremost, discussing the issue of gear wheels and wheel alignment on a cart or carriage, The Sporting Magazine notes in 1826 how: “The wheels had not tracked as they ought.” The advent of electricity gave use to the term as a way of varying frequency in order to keep the difference between circuits at a constant, with the first implication of this in a 1932 edition of the trade journal Electronics, which mentioned: “Deviation from exact tracking at various intermediate frequencies.” Finally, for tracking large, heavenly objects (like with telescopes and radar), the weekly BBC magazine The Listener discusses on 18 June 1959 how: “The Jodrell Bank telescope and the smaller one at Bedford, Massachusetts, were tracking the moon.”
While you can’t buy a moon online, the emergence of online commerce and the importance of being able to track the status of our purchases while in transit has become extremely important in business and in our personal lives. A few mere mouse clicks can provide a full tracking history for our purchase, telling us where our items are, where they are going, when they were transferred, if there is a problem or delay while in transit, and, finally, give an estimate of when they will be delivered, all of which help to save time as well as cut down on stress and uncertainty.
When it comes to translation services, you should be able to expect the same from your service provider. You deserve to know when your work is being processed, at what stage it is in (translation, proofreading, formatting, etc.), and when the work is estimated to be finished; moreover, the information should be available to you without the stress or hassle of having to send several emails to ask for updates. Tracking is all about information, and information means control: EVS Translations wants you to be in control.