07 September 2009

Cartoon : Happy Labor Day! – Words to Talk About Work

Today is Labor Day in the United States, a federal holiday and the first long weekend of the school year. I thought I’d take this opportunity to talk about some vocabulary and expressions for work!

In the cartoon, you see an interesting noun: toil. This word comes from Norman French. In French you still have the noun toiler. It is used to describe to work continuously and with a lot of effort. It is also a verb. To toil, like the noun, means to work with great difficulty to the point of exhaustion. Someone who toils is a toiler.

Labor (US) or labour (UK) is an uncountable noun and synonym for work. It is also is used to describe all the workers in a particular country, industry or a company. You might hear the term unskilled labor (la main-d’oeuvre non qualifiée) or skilled labor (la main-d’oeuvre qualifiée). Casual Labor (la main-d’oeuvre occasionnelle) is used to describe workers who provides a variety of services and is hired only a temporary or part-time basis. If workers band together into a group such as in a union, we describe this as organized labor (un mouvement syndical). Someone who is rewarded or profits from their work, we say that they enjoy or reap the fruits of their labor.

To describe work or a job that you find to be boring and very unpleasant, you would say it is a drudgery (une besogne)! If the job is tedious and requires you to collect a lot of information, to research or to move around a lot, you would say that your job requires a lot of legwork. Another way to describe very difficult and boring work which isn't very important is described as grunt work in American English and donkeywork in British English. If the boring job is done by someone of low social status, we say that it is a joe job, in other words, anyone can do it.

Another interesting work in the English language for work is travail! As you can guess it comes from the French but is pronounced a bit differently: \trə-ˈvāl, ˈtra-ˌvāl\. In English however, it is used to describe a laborious and difficult job that is painful, full of agony. For some of you, learning English is a travail! You even have the verb: to travail (s’exténuer).

pointing finger 01 Now look up for yourselves the words work and job at http://www.macmillandictionary.com/ to expand your vocabulary. At the site, you’ll find lots of usages and expressions that use both words. I’m not going to do all the work for you! LOL!

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