Hard work, especially painful or extremely unpleasant work. It used to also refer to the painful experience of giving birth. It comes from the old French word travailler, which could mean to work hard or to torture. In turn, that came from the Latin word trepaliare, to torture. In case you care, that Latin word came from the Latin word tripalium, a three-pronged instrument of torture, which in turn came from the Latin tri, three, and palus, stake. We get our world pole from that last Latin word. Think of all of this when the alarm goes off tomorrow morning. By the way, you might suspect that our word travel also comes from the French word travailler, because they look so similar. Indeed it does. Travel showed up in English in the 1300s, a time when traveling was a pretty arduous and dangerous undertaking. At least they didn't have alarm clocks, although some of those old English travelers must have fantasized about torturing the roosters that woke them up.
(Will be published in the June 2010 issue of Denver's Community News.)
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