July 28, 2006

The Trouble with “Work” (the word)

Filed under: General — Cory @ 1:09 am

I have issues with the English word “work.” To me, this single word can mean too many things, much like the word “love.” Let me describe the problem I have.

Recently at my day job I have been putting a lot of effort into a project, and I’ve been having a lot of fun while doing so. I hesitate to say that I am “working” on it, because that makes it sound like I am miserably slaving away at something that gives me no satisfaction. Several times lately I’ve found myself at “work” past 8 pm because I am still trying to get something to “work.” See the confusion?

This is similar to the situation we English speakers have with the word “love.” “Love” can mean many things, and the ancient Greeks recognized this and had different words for the different types of “love.” Summarized from Wikipedia:

  • AgapÄ“ – In Ancient Greek it often refers to a general affection or concern… AgapÄ“ is used in ancient texts to denote one’s feeling for a good meal, one’s children, and the feelings one has for a spouse.
  • Eros – Passionate love, with sensual desire and longing.
  • Philia – “Friendship” in modern Greek, a dispassionate virtuous love. It includes loyalty to friends, family, and community, and requires virtue, equality and familiarity.
  • Storge – Natural affection, like that felt by parents for offspring.

When you think about it, its pretty silly that we use the same word for all of the following:

  • My friends parents love deep fried twinkies!
  • My friends parents love their children.
  • My friends parents made love tonight!

And I think its the same way with the word “work.” It seems to me that the following verb forms of “work” should all be represented by different words:

  • Intensive laboring without enjoyment or satisfaction. As in, “The slaves were forced to work year round.”
  • Attending to tedious, monotonous or boring tasks. As in, “I am working my way through writing these graduation announcements.”
  • Pursuing exciting, interesting or important efforts. As in, “As a class we worked through the night to prepare the school gym for the prom.”

Maybe its just me, I don’t know. Occasionally I get calls from friends and family around 7:30 or so in the evening, and when they ask what I am doing I tell them I am “at work” and they always seem to make a sighing type of noise that sounds like they feel sorry for me. Usually the reality is that I am there because I am having too much fun to leave: my idea of being “at work” is typically different from theirs. I don’t really have any new words to propose, but I figured I should at least write this down while I am thinking about it. :)

Now its time for a bowl of Boo Berry.

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