Working Hard or Hardly Working?

There is an old joke that people at work sometimes say to each other: Are you working hard or hardly working? To work hard means to work with seriousness, to work a great deal, to work a lot. To hardly do something is to barely do something, to do very little of something. Hardly as an adverb means something different than hard as a noun. So the joke is basically: Are you working a lot (working hard) or a little (hardly working)?

I was reminded of this expression when I read a recent article in The Economist. (The Economist is a news magazines from Great Britain. It is published in the US as well.) The article was called “An Idle Proposal” (to be idle means not to work). The story had a chart of how many national public holidays different countries had each year. The country with the highest number was Spain, with 16; the lowest country was Romania, with five. The United States was in the middle: we have ten holidays celebrated by most states. (Each state determines its own public holidays.) Some of our national holidays are shared by other countries – Christmas and New Year’s Day, for example. Most of our holidays are unique to the US: Independence Day (4th of July), Thanksgiving, Labor Day, Memorial Day, Washington’s Birthday (also called President’s Day), Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Veteran’s Day, and Columbus Day. In addition, some states have their own holidays. In California, we celebrate Cesar Chavez Day, in honor of a famous Mexican American civil rights hero in the 1960s.

I’m looking forward to another holiday!


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13 Responses to Working Hard or Hardly Working?

  1. Jose Ailo says:

    Hi everyone!
    Just to say that there are eleven national public holidays in Brazil and as in the United States some states have their own holidays too. We also celebrate in Brazil the Labor day (dia do trabalho) on May 1st. There is an special brazilian holiday that is the Carnival, though it is a well-know holiday because people from all part of the world come to Brazil and enjoy a lot.

    Finally I’d like to wish health for everybody.

  2. Anton says:

    The Economist! It is also printed (or shipped?) in Russia, what’s more interesting, in English, so it’s another interesting way to practice and improve my language skills.

  3. emiliano says:

    Come to Spain Jeff, you will be happy here with so many holidays………, and it is not only the holidays, we have free days between the holiday and saturday/sunday.
    We call that “un puente” because it is a bridge between the holiday and the week end. The first thing every body do at work at the beginning of the year is looking for wich day of the week are the feasts, and planning “puentes” when a holliday takes place on thuesday, thirsday or friday…….just to join the feast day to saturday/sunday….and so on.
    The result is 4 or 5 days to go to the beach, to the mountains or whichever place you wanted.
    Possibly that is the reason why there are so many foreigners here in Spain working as we are hardly working because we are thinking how we are going to share the holidays with our work’s fellows.
    Usually sharing “puentes” at work is a big problem, and many people quarrell to get the longer “puente”of the year…….actually it is very funny if you are out of the matter.

  4. apple says:

    Are those ” President’s Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Veteran’s Day, and Columbus Day” real holidays in U.S? Why do most of American people
    still go to work on those holidays? It seems to me there are only 6 holidays in American, just one day more than Romania.

  5. Lotus says:

    Greetings from Romania to everybody! 🙂 I’m looking forward to another holiday, too!

  6. Farhod says:

    Hi guys!
    I am a new eslpod listener. I am from Uzbekistan. (i bet nobody knows about this country :)) Its in the middle Asia. There are a lot of people who are interested in learning english. There are a lot of holidays in my country. A week ago we celebrated the biggest holiday which is called Eid. In spring we celebrate our National holiday “Navruz” in 21st of March. In 1st of September we celebrate our Independence Day from USSR.
    ->OFF TOPIC. I heard in eslpod 100 that Jeff has another podcasts too, like TOEFL Podcast and English Through stories. Could you guys give me the link of these podcasts?

  7. Thomas says:

    “The Economist” is one of the more formal English news magazines out there. For those who would like to learn more formal vocabularies especially from British English, make the magazine your choice. It basically tells news about the world (like Newsweek, Time etc) but “The Economist”, to many people, is unbiased on their views on world affairs. It is read by many well-known public figures including the United States’ President George Bush, Bill Gates and Jeff McQuillan of course! :))


  8. emiliano says:

    Hi Farhod I know perfectly well Uzbekistan wich capital is Taskent, also know that you are close to Caspio sea.
    When I was a children I studied all the URS republics, and your country was one of them. Of course I have not
    the pleasure of visiting your nation that I suppose has to be very beautiful.
    English Through Stories are courses that you may suscribe on the web page of ESL, just in the store section, and I
    say to you that they are very good courses. I know it because I suscribed them some time ago. Also they are really very
    Best wishes Farhod

  9. emiliano says:

    My wife also told me about Uzbekistan (she likes history a lot) and said to me that the very beautiful and famous city of Samarcanda is in it. Also that this city is one of the oldest in Asia with more than 2000 years B.J.C. also that it belongs to the Ancient Persian Imperious and it was conquest by Alexander Magnus IV century B.J.C. Afterward in XIII century was destroyed by Genghis Kan and rebuilted by Tamerlane in XIV century being the capital of his Imperious. She told me also more and more things about this legendaries lands.
    I thing you have to be very proud of your history and the role that your fascinating country takes in world events.

  10. Andrej says:

    Hi Jeff,
    I’m from Italy and the interesting thing I found is the ratio between religious and civil (non religous) holidays.
    Here in Italy, we have more religious holidays (ex: All Saints, Saint Steven-I think that’s the way to translate the Italian name Stefano) then civil holidays.
    We have 11 national holidays; 7 religious and 4 civil.

    Best Wishes.

  11. Jose Antonio says:

    Hello there:

    Yes. In Spain we like the holidays, we love the holidays. Since today to the end of the year we have one, two… four holidays. At least here in Seville. Every region has its owns holidays and others are communs. All the Saints is the next one, the Constitution Day, on December the sixth, Inmaculada Day, on December the eighth, and Christmas. As say Emiliano, we have “puentes” too, but not all the people. I work on Saturdays. I am ” un pringao”. I dont know how do you say in english “pringao”. “Pringao” is someone that has a bad time while other people has a good time, for to work, illness, etc


  12. Kobe.Su says:


    it’s pretty sad to realize that there’s no any holidays to the end of the year in China, except X’mas Day and which day we will be “un pringao” , working hard when our boss (from Finland)hardly working on that day.

    the most important holiday for Chinese people would be Spring festival““ next year(2008) would be started from Feb 6th (eve of spring festival).

    greetings from Beijing“`=^^=

  13. Olex says:

    Hi, Farhod.
    I know Uzbekistan very well because I was born and growth in the Soviet Union, in the Ukraine 😉
    You can find TOEFL Podcast and English Through stories here:
    I guess it’s still for free, so enjoy it.
    I live now in Germany, and I think, there is more Holydays in Germany as in the Ukraine. But in the Ukraine there is a grateful rule: if holyday were on weekend, you still have Monday free of work.
    And you would not believe me, but people from the former Soviet Union have New Year’s Day two times in a year (“new” – at 31st December, and old one- at 13th January).
    See yous

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