Monday, December 22, 2008


I've always thought the English language was lacking sufficiently exact and concise words to describe the place of one's work. "Workplace" feels childish and contrived, like calling your bus driver "Mr. Bus Driver." Calling it "work" doesn't work. (Pun intended, I guess; it was hard to avoid.) The "office" is only accurate if, in point of fact you do work at one. However, even then 95% of those who work at an office actually reside in a cube. "I have to hurry. I am late for cube"? No. That doesn't work either.

"I am going to work" is obscure. Are you going to perform work or are you going to the place at which you perform work? "Work" works best as a noun or a verb. It fails to convey adequate meaning to be effective as the word to describe where the work is being done.

"Where do you work?"
"I work at work. In fact, I brought some work to work to work on."

See? Terrible, just terrible. The English language can do better than that.

I thought I had found a great term to use when, some time ago, I discovered the Latin term ergastulum. At the time, the definition provided said it was "a place where work is peformed." Perfect, I thought. I'll use that. So for a couple years I've used the word the word ergastulum to describe that place where I am employed, at least within my own head if not in conversation with others.

Unfortunately, upon reexamining the word today, I found a disheartening and more thorough definition of the word:

ERGAŹ¹STULUM was a private prison attached to most Roman farms, called carcer rusticus by Juvenal, where the slaves were made to work in chains. It appears to have been usually under ground, and according to Columella ought to be lighted by narrow windows, which should be too high from the ground to be touched by the hand. (1)
Though that might be accurate for some of the places I have worked, SuckFactors, for example, it isn't quite what I was looking for.

Apparently Hewlitt-Packard has a data storage solution called Ergastulum as well. No doubt they did insufficient research into the meaning when they selected it. Likely, more pleased with the word's true meaning is the heavy metal band from Belgium named Ergastulum. Rock on boys.

So now I seek a new word to adequately convey the meaning of one's workplace (zoinks, I hate that word) and to hopefully fill this gap left by the English language. If you have any suggestions, please let me know.



Anonymous said...

About time you updated.
Seriously, I think your word is perfect for perhaps 80% of thoes who drudge. I'm sure by Friday, most people feel like they work in an ergastulum. And the fact that it sounds like some kind of stomach disease almost adds to the appropriateness of the word.
Me though, I just go to the cemetery.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I'm waiting for some Christmas pics of the kid.