Sep 7, 2010


Summary: In honor of this week's three-day weekend, we take a look at the history of Labor Day with the WOW Word of the Week, travail.

How was your Labor Day? If you live in the U.S., you probably enjoyed a three-day weekend, taking Monday off of work—with full pay and benefits—to most likely spend some quality time with friends, family and the outdoors. I took a day off from blogging, myself.

What is Labor Day? North Americans (particularly Americans) are known for being hard-working almost to the point of addiction. (See the definition for workaholic.) Part of that tradition came from honoring the dedicated laborers of what's commonly known as the working class. These include blue collar workers, or traditionally, men who wore blue work shirts, such as those in the industrial fields of maintenance and construction. Beginning in the 1880s in New York City, Labor Day became a U.S. federal holiday in 1894. Today, it is more commonly known as a day that honors all workers and also serves as the symbolic end of summer.

With so many Americans unemployed this year, it was the end-of-summer/beginning-of-fall symbolism that was emphasized in most local events across the country: pools closed, parades marched, bonfires warmed the willing. But the unemployed didn't necessarily get a day off—nor did the working.

Another often unspoken tradition for Labor Day in America is yard work. Three-day weekends provide steady workers the opportunity to "catch up" on household projects. And in the fall, that often means cleaning the gutters, washing the windows, clearing out the garage and putting away the barbecue. It's part of the steady rhythm of American life, no matter what your job status. ... And, yes, it's what I did, too.

Whatever you did over the holiday weekend, today meant back to work for you—at your office, shop or home computer, as well as at school and on the job hunt. This week's word is for you:

Travail (TRA - vayl or tra - VAYL) - (v.) to work or to toil, often in hardship. uses this example sentence, fittingly: "Labor Day is the day on which we recognize those men and women who daily travail with little appreciation or compensation." From the French travailler, this word once meant to trouble or torture, but has since toned down a bit. It entered the English language in the 1300s.

Don't work too hard this week ....

© KiKi Productions, Inc. 2010

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