Take It Away

fishtakeawayBack in the day, the take away  we knew was a verb plus adverb combination that had something to do with subtraction — six take away three is three. In the 21st century, however, take away  has been compressed into a noun, like  carbon into a diamond. It’s now a sparkling word that has something to do with addition — something you get from a lecture, a performance, a meeting, a séance — some sort of event. No takeaway? No good.

In the Oxford English Dictionary, the earliest example of takeaway  as a noun is labeled Rare — a 1931 citation from the journal American Speech: The takeaway is “the train that takes logs to the mill.” In 1961, it’s a golf term, “the initial movement of the club at the beginning of a backswing.” And in 1970, it’s “a shop which sells take-away food.” Not even close to our special modern meaning.

But the Oxford Dictionaries website recognizes it, as do many others. A 2009 definition from emphasizes the significance of the takeaway: “Any new piece of information gleaned from a lecture, interview, or other media presentation, etc., that can be of exponential value when acted upon or put to use.” Exponential value!

That’s serious stuff. Maybe that’s why takeaways are prominent features of TED talks, those life-changing short speeches on Technology, Entertainment, Design. So you can find from, for example, this 2014 article by Gavin McMahon about a TED talk by the game designer Jane McGonical, “Takeaways: 8 Ways to Hook Your Audience.”

And that’s why John Hockenberry’s hourlong weekday show on Public Radio International, co-produced by The New York Times, WNYC, and WGBH, has been called The Takeaway since its founding in 2008. At that time, Hockenberry said he hoped the program would offer “a new take” on 21st-century global dialogue.

In any case, this takeaway is new. It’s difficult to find this kind of takeaway even a decade ago. Here’s an early example, courtesy of Google Books: The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader by John C. Maxwell. In the 2007 edition, many chapters end with a “Daily Take-away,” like this: “A nursery in Canada displays this sign on its wall: ‘The best time to plant a tree is 25 years ago. The second best time is today.’ Plant the tree of self-discipline in your life today.”

There are other modern takeaways, too. The New York Times has a “Restaurant Takeaway” column of “restaurant dishes you can make in your own kitchen.” And Wiktionary tells us that in Britain, Australia, and New Zealand, the word is “frequently used in the question ‘eat-in or takeaway?’ (North American ‘for here or to go?’)”

A post like this likewise needs takeaways to be worth your while. So have you found any? Hope so!






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