The ‘working from home’ words you NEED to learn

mute‘You’re on mute!’

For those of us not on the frontline, and who are lucky enough to be able to continue working almost ‘as normal’, WFH (working from home) has been turned on its head. It seems to be stating the obvious when someone’s email signature includes ‘I’m working from home’. Our example sentence ‘I usually WFH on Fridays’, reminds me that this concept seemed like a novelty a year ago, something you’d have to apply for special dispensation for and have some sort of valid reason to justify.

In fact, ‘I’m actually in the office’ would be more surprising nowadays, and the very thought of returning and seeing so many people in such a confined space makes me shudder.

In German-speaking countries, the ‘Homeoffice’ is a topic of everyday conversation. This is completely logical, but confuses me every time, because I instinctively hear it as ‘the Home Office’ (the British government department). It’s another of the many instances, like ‘smart working’ in Italy, in which countries with different mother tongues are using English perfectly accurately, but in a different way and with a completely different grammar (‘Ich mache Homeoffice’ = literally ‘I do homeoffice’). It was a contender for Germany’s ‘Anglicism of the Year’ in 2020, pipped at the post by ‘Lockdown’, which often appears as a compound noun – something the German language excels at – such as ‘Lockdown-Lockerungen’ (easing of the lockdown).

As I write this, the UK lockdown is still in full force. I’m wrapped up in my poncho and with a hot water bottle so as not to add to the climate crisis by putting my heating on. I have a makeshift standing desk in my spare room and instead of enjoying the antics of the OUP ducks at our Oxford office, I’m witnessing the neighbour’s tree spring into action and passers-by doing their best to be socially* (or at least physically) distanced*.

Gen Z seemed largely unphased by the abrupt move to virtual working environments, gently reminding the less tech-savvy of us to unmute* and coping well with the lack of in-person meetings. Their versatility in the face of huge change is one of many aspects of our ‘new normal’ to celebrate. Our reduced footprint from less commuting and travel (the anthropause?), slowing down our pace of life and focusing on the really important things – spending time in nature and thinking of novel ways to see our loved ones (Zoom quiz with Grandma, anyone?). In the cold, bleak winter months, when mental health issues are constantly bubbling up, these are things to cherish. So I wish you (and your support bubble*) strength and patience, whether WFH, remote learning*, on the frontline, avoiding superspreaders, practising mindfulness or receiving your vaccination!

*These new words will be added in the next update to Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries online!

Isabel Tate is a Senior Editor in OUP’s Dictionaries and Reference Grammar department. Currently WFH, she’s looking forward to a time when she can elbump her Homeoffice friends across the globe!

Author: Oxford University Press ELT

Every year we help millions of people around the world to learn English. As a department of the University of Oxford, we further the University’s objective of excellence in education by publishing proven and tested language learning books, eBooks, learning materials, and educational technologies.

2 thoughts

  1. Dear Isabel,
    many thanks for this uplifting article.
    Effectively the Italians excel to create confusion and I am confused myself too, when twice I week I have to enter into the Employee’s Register website “smart working” instead of WFH..
    In a way WFH can be smart as one has not to commute and has more time for themselves, i.e. go cycling during the lunch break instead of putting on weight at the canteen!
    This new normal has another perspective and every lockdown has its silver lining, including having the time to read this blog.
    Looking forward to reading from you
    Kind regards
    Fernando Sicbaldi

    1. Dear Fernando,

      Thank you for your reply – we’re glad you found this uplifting. Keeping healthy while ‘smart working’ is certainly a silver lining!

      With best wishes,
      Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries team

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