Mary Strachan Scriver
2 min readJan 1, 2022

“The English “work” has an Indo-European stem werg-, via Greek ergon, meaning deed or action without punitive connotations; and Latin urgere, to press, bear down upon or compel”

“Old English macian “to give being to, give form or character to, bring into existence; construct, do, be the author of, produce; prepare, arrange, cause; behave, fare, transform,” from West Germanic *makōjanan “to fashion, fit” (source also of Old Saxon makon, Old Frisian makia “to build, make,” Middle Dutch and Dutch “…

“This present research focuses on the etymological roots of the word ‘work’ in a European anchoring. This in no way states that other languages have nothing to teach us about the notion. Yet, considering the centrality of the West in both industrial revolutions and how it has imposed its rationality through globalization on work relations, it is safe to say that these roots are a strong starting point to untangle the many perspectives surrounding the notion of work in modern societies. As we will see, these roots are far from neutral and provide a rich account to the diverse, if not oppositional — and even contentious — views on what working means.”

Pulled off Google at random these little bits suggest how complex the idea of “work” and be and how much it is a part of culture. Some say work that is forced is torture but is still work. Others say it must be free. Some say that ingenious ways of doing things are an art form. Others say it is the product of logic rather than fancy. Anything fanciful or fun is considered by some to be lesser. “Work” must be hard and serious.

A favorite word of mine is the “workaround” which means finding a way to a goal when the original way is blocked. It’s quite a graphic concept. Like if there is no gate, one climbs over or builds a stile. It means a firm and effective grasp of the goal.


I’m too cold to go on.



Mary Strachan Scriver

Born in Portland when all was calm just before WWII. Educated formally at NU and U of Chicago Div School. Clergy for ten years. Always happy on high prairie.