Saturday, February 9, 2008

Words at work

THERE are many professions that are obsolete today. A look at a few makes interesting reading, so here goes. The bowyer was a person who made, sold or used bows. The origin of this word is in the Indo-European bheug that means ‘to bend’. The doorkeeper was the ostiary. As doorkeepers were usually common in churches, ostiary came to refer to the doorkeeper of the church. The root of ostiary is the Latin word ostium or ‘entrance’, a word that comes from os or ‘mouth’. Words like ‘oral’ and ‘usher’ come from os too.

The zanjero was in charge of water distribution. When all systems were run manually, this man was considered one of the important people in a community. ‘Zanjero’ comes from the Spanish zanja, meaning ‘ditch’ or ‘irrigation canal’.

The next time a tablecloth is changed at home, the person doing the task can be given the title of ‘napier’. A napier was a man in charge of the linen in a royal household. The word ‘napier’ comes from the Anglo-Norman ‘nape’ that means ‘tablecloth’.

And now, for some current professional tags that clearly show how things have changed. So rapid is the speed of change that even as this gets written, these categories of collar begin to be challenged, see for yourself!

The blue-collar worker is the person who wears special uniform while on the job. Postmen, miners, policemen and all other professionals who wear designated attire to work are blue-collar workers. The white-collar workers are the people who do not perform any manual work and are not expected to wear uniforms. The pink-collar jobs are those that were traditionally not well paid and were performed by women. These were jobs like that of a secretary or receptionist. But, like all other things in today’s world, these categories begin to blur. Are business executives in uniform blue collar and not white-collar workers?