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.

April 5, 2009


Filed under: On My Mind — rivkahwrites @ 8:50 am

Hello All and welcome to the “Rivkah Writes…” blog, a forum for my musings, mental meanderings, etc.  

I thought I’d start off by giving you a little history. I’ve always told myself I ought to write regularly – it’s a discipline most writers-in-waiting probably subject themselves to at one point or other. I found myself to be most prolific when I was in undergraduate English classes, writing continuous essays, response pieces, etc. But once I left college, what with taking care of family, going to work, and just living from day to day, those resolutions just seemed to settle guiltily at the back of my mind. Until last Wednesday. Last Wednesday, I became a recessionista (in other words, I was laid off).  After stumbling out of my manager’s office, locking myself into a bathroom stall and crying the rest of the address off the severance package envelope (yes – they didn’t leave me destitute, thankfully) I made two grief-sodden resolutions: First, I HAD to stop crying, and two, no more excuses – I HAD to start writing. Because this incident, this dismissal, this redundancy, call it what you will – was really a message – my neglected literary ambitions had finally been given a kick in the butt by an omniscient and omnipotent foot.  So once the initial shock wore off, I dried my eyes, squared my shoulders, and…that’s how this blog came to be.

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