victor steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Mon Oct 3 22:31:36 UTC 2011

Andrew Sabl does the "heavy lifting" of tracing several uses of the word
"unemployee" by Reason Magazine blogger Tim Cavanaugh.


What struck me more than Cavanaugh’s (predictable) opposition to the
proposal is the “exhortation” he applies to those who’ve been without work
for ages:

 Do any work you can, even if it’s day labor, rather than building a
personal brand as an unemployee.

“Personal brand as an unemployee.” Lovely. I’m sure that all the people out
there who lack work have made just this mistake. They considered cultivating
a reputation for being employed but instead made the boneheaded decision to
“build a personal brand” around joblessness instead.  And this is profound
advice in general: if you’re unemployed and want employers to stop
discriminating against you in job searches, make sure you have a job before
you start searching.

It turns out that Cavanaugh has used the term “unemployee” before, at least
twice. The first two times he was saying, arguably, that deliberately
building a media reputation around your own unemployment is
counterproductive (“is ‘unemployee’ a career path?“)—a criticism which,
while potentially valid, can logically apply only to about three people who
have publicly sought out roles as spokespeople for the unemployed rather
than merely being, say, unemployed. Even in those posts he couldn’t help
suggesting that the problem facing unemployed people in general is that
they’d rather complain publicly about their lack of work than seek work. In
the second of his posts he suggests that the few spokespeople he cites
represent a “much larger universe of unemployees: non-workers who have
evolved careers as subjects of news stories about long-term
unemployment.” One might how large that universe in fact is. Just large
enough, it seems (N=at least 3) to make Cavanaugh feel much better about
mocking, rather than supporting, government efforts to boost demand.

“Unemployee” is surely one of the ugliest neologisms to appear in some time.
It reminds me of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, in which handmaids
who can’t bear live children—never mind that it’s often the more powerful
men they serve who are infertile—are labeled “unwoman” and sent off to
labor, if I recall, mining radioactive materials.

Cavanaugh is not alone--127K raw ghits, including UD.


PS: In case you're wondering, "heavy lifting" is in the OED from 1934 (heavy
lifting 2.). But it's listed as

  2. U.S. fig. Hard work; great (esp. non-physical) effort.

I'm not sure if the narrowed meaning of "the hard or disproportional PART of
the work" is worth a separate mention--something like "Everyone did a great
job on this project, but the heavy lifting was done by X, which allowed the
rest of us to round out the details."


> Kit Kat’s 75 but the heavy lifting was done by Rowntree’s not Nestle


> Yet Gillard inherited a long to-do list because Rudd and John Howard had
> largely left the economy on autopilot. Most of the heavy lifting was done by
> past prime ministers like Bob Hawke and Paul Keating. Howard and Rudd opted
> to coast and ride China's boom.

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list