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Talk Dirty To Me

No Housework DayHappy National No Housework Day! Yeah, it’s a strange thing to celebrate, but everything has its day in the sun, including ignoring dusting and sweeping (like you really needed an excuse). In honor of this glorious day, let’s take a look at some of the common words used in Spring cleaning.

The Language of Housework


BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR. You’re trying to watch your favorite show when the wife (or husband) fires that infernal machine up. Now it’s all you can hear! Without it, though, all that fur your dog sheds would pile up into a fine shag carpet.

“Vacuum” is another word that comes from an obvious source, which is the Latin word for empty, “vacuus.” A vacuum cleaner uses an air pump to suck up junk off the floor through a partial vacuum, hence the name.

Where does “dust” come from anyway?


Around our house, this is one of the most hated activities. Luckily we’ve managed to pawn it off on the kids! Whether you use copious amounts of cleaner or just swipe it off the shelf in disgust, dusting is important to keep your allergies from going crazy.

The word “dust” has strangely been basically the same word for over a thousand years. In Old English it was called “dūst,” with a similar word evolving in Germany: “Dunst.” It remains to be seen if they hated the stuff as much as we do today.


Whatever you call it, it’s anything that’s taking up space in your house you could easily toss with no trepidation. Of course, the saying “one man’s trash is another’s treasure” is very true, especially with recycling programs or even the art phenomenon known as “found art.”

“Waste” is one of the oldest terms for trash, with possible origins in the mid 1100s. It comes from the Old French “wast” with some influence from the Latin vastus, meaning “desolate.” This is perfect as it describes how I feel when it’s my turn to drag it to the dumpster.


While those of us in the United States are ignoring housework today, people in England are ignoring homework (that is, if they had this holiday). While Americans associate the word “homework” with school, across the pond it’s the term they use for cleaning the home.

Homework is actually the older term, from the late 1600s. The first citation of “house-work” is from the 19th century, and simply means work done to keep a house orderly. How folks in the US came to use one term and not is an insight lost in the vacuus.