Fired / Let go

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3 comments on this post.
  1. Hughe:

    Being a Human Resources manager, its nice to know the origin of words I regrettably have to use from time to time. Has me wondering what the origin is of other terms for “you’re not employed with us anymore”. You used 2 in the column – canned and dismiss. In record keeping of dismissals, I used the term terminated, which has a note of finality to it. Fired and let go have 19th century origins. Are these words and others like them examples of language that developed out of the industrial revolution when more of us became employees of companies?

  2. N Stephenson:

    Hi Love the website!
    On the definition of the word ‘Fire’ , as in to make someone unemployed, sack them from their job etc.
    I’ve recently heard a definition that both explains the words ‘Sack’ and to ‘Fire’ someone, though I appreciate this may not be possible to trace the written words back via books such as The OED, but the story does seem to make a little sense.
    I was told by an elderly Scotsman that both hose terms came about through the employment of Stone masons.
    If a particular mason had done something really bad (either to his colleagues or , more likely, to the stone he was working on) then, sometimes the employers would burn his tools. This meant that not only could he continue his job there, but, they considered him SO bad that they had decided that they didn’t want to him to work elsewhere..hence the burning of the tools.
    If, however, they thought, for one reason or another, that maybe he wasn’t TOO bad a worker, or that really they had no choice but to ‘let him go’, then they would ask him to depart, but, place his tools in a sackcloth so that he could still continue working elsewhere..just not there.
    It’s hearsay, definitely, but one I’ve come across in England and Scotland a few times over the years and seems like a widely popular belief in the etymology of those words.
    Do you think it’s plausible at all?

  3. Boardwalk Empire: Our Favorite Words from the Final Season | Wordnik:

    [...] We were surprised to learn that to be let go, or fired, is not an anachronism. This euphemism dates back to 1817, says the Word Detective. [...]

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