Posts tagged Working Words

Work Semantics

:: Working Words

By: The Unknown Author


We get our word “do” from Latin. I was taught that it meant “give” - as in DOnate, whereas it has strayed through centuries in English to mean the opposite of idleness. I prefer to think of it as meaning both “do” and “give”. When I work for somebody, it feels better to know I am “giving” my employer something, rather than merely killing time. Just as surely, when idle, I can’t be giving at all. That said, idleness has its place. Bertrand Russell wrote In Praise of Idleness, not intending “salaries for idlers”!

In the same way, the words that came into our language courtesy of the Industrial Revolution are growing boring and tiresome. Take “manager”. The root is also from Latin: “manus” is a hand, and I suppose we must believe that managers “handle” things. Usually, they “manipulate”. Their task became to wheedle ever more work out of people, calling this “productivity”. If ever a word needed to be “decolonialised” it is that one!

For a long time, managers came from the ranks - after proving themselves “on the job”. That didn’t always make them good managers (see Dr Laurence J Peter, The Peter Principle). However, they were more effective than now in one sense: they were not asking others to do something they themselves could not do.

When managers were no longer expected to perform what they expected from others, but rather “specialise” in management, respect was lost and it all began to unravel. It is difficult to respect someone who can’t do what s/he is asking you to do.

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