Rivkah Writes…

April 6, 2009

Laid Off: Variations on a Theme

Filed under: On My Mind,Unemployment — rivkahwrites @ 3:06 am

Lately I’ve been wondering about the diverse uses of the word “laid” – not surprising, perhaps, considering I was recently laid off. But think about this for a moment; just how did the term “laid off” come to be used in the context of pink slips, recessions, and RIFs? And what’s the relationship between “laid off” and other expressions sharing the same verb form? You know, like being “laid up” if you’re sick, having a “lie in” when you don’t have to be up early for work (like yours truly), “lying in wait” to ambush an enemy, and, dating from the fifteenth century, about to have your “lying in” if you were ready to go into labor. (There’s also another, more colorful usage form – but this is a clean blog, so we’re not going there.)

Some of these expressions, like “laid up” and “lie in,” make intuitive sense – when you’re sick or sleeping late, you are literally lying down, and given your condition, passive, even defenceless. But other usage forms are completely counter-intuitive. Take “lie in wait,” for example. You may be in a state of complete stillness as you wait for your target – you may even be lying down. But you’re definitely neither passive nor defenceless; every nerve ending is tensed, poised, ready to spring into action. As for “lying in,” despite the defencelessness implied by the state of childbirth, you would actually labor to bring that child into the world,  so no passivity there either.

Which brings us to “laid off.” Clearly, whoever coined the term had the idea of passivity in mind. When you’re no longer “actively” employed, what else would you be but passive? But in my mind a passive connotation only makes sense if you let it. No one’s arguing with the fact that getting laid off robs you of your income, your dignity, your self-esteem – that it makes you want to hide under your covers.  But that’s hardly the response that will help land you a job – especially in today’s economy. So for me, getting laid off is more like lying in wait – I may not be actively employed, but I’m definitely in the game – tensed poised, and ready to spring into action.


  1. Good luck with finding work and/or in progressing with your writing, Rivkah.

    I have been a self-employed writer for the past 16 years after accepting a severance package from my employer. So I know what you’re going through. And let me tell you, the freelance writing life is the best of all worlds. It is just unfortunate that you are embarking on this journey at such a tough time in the economic scheme of things.

    I was primarily doing magazine work until earlier this year. And then the bottom fell out and most of my markets ceased publication, reduced their number of issues or pages, and reduced the amount of freelance material they were buying. So … I have turned my attention to writing books — and blogging.

    I think the only way for us to survive — and thrive in this nasty economy is to focus on what we do best. Carve yourself a niche and forge forward.

    Good luck to you, and check out my blog at:

    Comment by Doreen — April 7, 2009 @ 1:03 am | Reply

  2. Thanks so much for your support, Doreen – I will indeed forge ahead – feel a little self-consciously like my own cheerleadng squad at this point, but I’m sure doing the self-imposed “ra ra!” will come naturally after a while! (Love the “Wizard of Words” by the way -great title!)

    Comment by rivkahwrites — April 7, 2009 @ 1:12 am | Reply

  3. Rivkah, thanks for a very entertaining and comforting blog (which I found via your post on LinkedIn).
    I am in a similar situation to you and empathise with your comment above. However, I firmly believe that an engaging blog could be worth more to you in the long term than a discounted commission. Employers really are looking harder at prospective employee’s web presences, than any CV or portfolio of by-lines.
    Keep up the good work!


    Comment by Tim Lloyd — April 7, 2009 @ 1:21 am | Reply

    • Thanks Tim! So glad you found the post entertaining and comforting – a writer’s best endorsement is appreciation of her work, so this is balm to my poor rejected soul – I speak in jest, of course – no tears here, but you get the drift.

      Please check in for further posts – I aim to update “Rivkah Writes…” on a daily basis.

      Comment by rivkahwrites — April 7, 2009 @ 2:43 am | Reply

  4. Excellent post! I’ve never put much thought into the term or word so you’ve gotten my brain muscles twitching. 🙂 You’re right – laid off does sound like one is being passive. It’s good that you’re in the game and not just laying in wait. Good luck.

    Comment by Petula — April 7, 2009 @ 1:41 am | Reply

    • Wow – thanks Petula – that gives me so much more incentive to keep writing! Please keep me posted if you hear of any openings.

      Comment by rivkahwrites — April 7, 2009 @ 2:45 am | Reply

  5. Hi Rivkah,

    Sorry to hear about being laid off but good for you for staying motivated and in the game.

    I read your blog and I was just curious – is this something you’d point a prospective employer to?

    And are you on Twitter? If yes, you may want to sign up for @problogger’s 31 day Blog challenge. Check out today’s challenge: http://www.problogger.net/archives/2009/04/06/write-an-elevator-pitch-for-your-blog-day-1-31dbbb/

    Best of luck with the job search and if I come across anything I’ll be sure to forward.

    Warm regards.

    Ramona Persaud

    Comment by ramona persaud — April 7, 2009 @ 3:16 am | Reply

    • Hi Ramona,

      Thanks for your response and your support – I really appreciate it!

      In terms of your first question, yes, I would point a prospective employer to the blog. I made an effort to keep it free of objectionable content, did not engage in trashing or play the blame game, so I think for now, the blog can only help, not hurt me.

      About the twittering, I still haven’t mastered that particular art (even blogging was a stretch!), but I will definitely check out your link and find out what it’s about.

      Thanks so much for keeping an eye out for openings/opportunities for me! I took a look at your page and see you’re an independent documentary filmmaker, which sounds exciting. If you ever need a scriptwriter, or some other communication-based person, why not give me a try? Perhaps I can fit the bill.

      Thanks again and let’s talk soon!

      Comment by rivkahwrites — April 7, 2009 @ 9:52 am | Reply

  6. Great attitude to have! I had the same reaction as you when I was laid off in December–depression, sadness, and finally anger and redemption, lol!
    So, like you, I started a blog–a film review blog to be exact which I still keep up with today even though I landed a full-time job in the beginning of March.
    My advice? Hang in there… Network your a$@ off and land a brand yourself. You’ll thank yourself later.

    Comment by Candice — April 7, 2009 @ 7:14 am | Reply

    • Will do Candice – thanks!

      Comment by rivkahwrites — April 7, 2009 @ 10:04 am | Reply

  7. WOW! THANKS for such excellent writing and conveying such a positive attitude. I enjoyed your posts immensely, and will pray for a quick and rewarding solution to your current employment “dilema.” I put dilema in quotes because it just may turn out that this situation will be the catalyst to cause you to REALLY be discovered. BEST WISHES!

    Comment by Henry Ford — April 11, 2009 @ 1:34 am | Reply

  8. This is really inspirational! Never underestimate the power of words. Maybe the term “laid off” does have some kind of subversive effect on the human psyche. As if the state of being unemployed isn’t discouraging enough, to be subconsciously lulled into passivity does not help. Not only has this blog empowered you, I believe it empowers others as well (as it did for me). Keep writing!

    Comment by RT — April 29, 2009 @ 10:14 am | Reply

  9. Thanks for the support – I will!

    Comment by rivkahwrites — April 29, 2009 @ 2:02 pm | Reply

  10. I have been laid off several times and collect unemployment and since I am good-looking I cannot find the time because women ask me out on dates and then they want to spend the night together after which I am exhausted in the morning to look for job. Then they want to have ‘lunch’, then call for dinner…
    Anyone in same situation give me some pointers how to look for work? I do not have time. Yet, I am unemployed and so busy.

    Comment by Duperko Gazurkov — July 20, 2009 @ 1:03 pm | Reply

    • Duperko – you got me – that’s some unemployment dilemma you got there!

      Comment by rivkahwrites — July 20, 2009 @ 2:08 pm | Reply

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