Tag Archives: workout etymology

Whistle while you work it


“All the world is perpetually at work, only that our poor mortal lives should pass the happier for that little time we possess them.” — Temple

Most of us work. It’s what we do for much of our waking lives. In fact, the notion of work is so embedded in our psyche that the very word pervades all aspects of our lives — even when we’re at play. The word with so many definitions (it takes up several pages of the OED) has never been confined to just its core meanings of toil, labor and employment; more than representing simply the opposite of play, it embraces countless notions of intention and activity in as many different guises. Work takes a proud place in the Oxford Dictionaries’ list of the 1,000 most frequently used words. And recently it has begun to work its way idiomatically even further and more pervasively into the lingo. But let’s start with our more traditional understanding and use of the word.

“Fodder, a wand, and burdens, are for the ass; and bread, correction, and work, for a servant.” — Ecclesiasticus 33:24

Even in its core context — that of employment — work can refer to so many of aspects of its own self, showing off its versatility before it’s even left the workplace. Continue reading