Toiling and Moiling


“Why not come and sing with me,” said the Grasshopper “instead of toiling and moiling in that way?”

Janis 1967

You’ll be toiling and moiling just to get through this.  If things become tedious, just scroll down to the jokes at the end.

samuel johnson

Samuel Johnson defined moil as “to labour in the mire.”

janis 68

Moiling in the mire, toiling in the muck.

bread moil


Singing for your supper.


In the art of glassmaking, a moil is a superfluous piece of glass which is formed during blowing and removed in the finishing operation.


Cut that moil, Jack, and put it in your pocket till I get back.

moil point tool

A moil to a miner is a short hand tool with a polygonal point, used for breaking or prying out rock.


Especially in the beginning of its life, the word moil had connotations of wetness.  Her tears moiled the letter.

ae 57

In Spanish, as in English, moil can be a noun or a verb:   trabajo duro or esforzarse.

Janis Joplin, Sam Andrew

A moil is definitely not a mohel, although the words are homophones, at least in the US.  In the UK, mohel and mole have the same sound.

Al primo posto

Toiling and Moiling is a pleonasm, really.


Greek πλεονασμός pleonasmos from πλέον pleon ”more, too much”  is the use of more words or word parts than is necessary for clear expression.  You know, like black darkness, or burning fire.  ”Tuna fish” is a pleonasm.    So is “safe haven.”


A pleonasm is a tautology.  A tautology or a pleonasm can be used to reinforce an idea, an observation, a statement by making  writing clearer and easier to understand.  Legal documents are studded with pleonasms in order to make absolutely clear the intent of the wording.


Here is how a lawyer would phrase a poem that we all know:  Whereas, on or about the night prior to Christmas, there did occur at a certain improved piece of real property (hereinafter “the House”) a general lack of stirring by all creatures therein, including, but not limited to, a mouse.


Pleonastic devices were so often used by the epic poets, Homer, Virgil, Luís Vaz de Camões , Milton.  Epic poets once sang all of their lines, and pleonasms helped with the memorizing.


How many times is the phrase ‘rosy fingered dawn’ (rododactylos) used in the Iliad?  There are many of these set epithets in the poem. And each of them helps in the memorization of the whole work.

Sam Andrew Janis Joplin Leoni Samantha Leoni

In French, you can say Il est possible que.  Or  Il peut arriver que.  Or Il peut se passer que. They all mean roughly the same thing, they are often said in sequence and they are all more or less pleonastic.  Not really necessary to the sense of what follows.

bergen and caine

Toiling and moiling mean more or less the same thing and are only joined in this old cliché because they rhyme.

birk beat

She needed a respite from the moil of the modern world.


calot is that kepi you see on a gendarme’s head in Paris.


A calotte is that skullcap you see on the rabbi’s head in Villejuif.


Does the Pope wear a yarmulke?  Calotte can also mean the vault of heaven, or, the clergy.


This is an example of metonymy, substituting the part (a priest’s cap) for the whole, the clergy.

booker 76

Men who moil for gold.

Sam Janis 68

The audience moiled around the stage.

charlotte rampling 66

Middle English mollen from French mouillir, Old French moillier, Vulgar Latin *molliare, Latin mollia, the soft part of the bread, Indo European *mel-

sam janis airport

The angry mob moiled around the ticket counter.

christa päffgen

From this same word mollia comes mojado, Spanish for ‘wet’ and slang for ‘wetback.’

christie avedon

Extreme manual labor:  the kind of moiling work that was done by farmers before the age of mechanization.

Cosa c'è in un nome?

Some words that mean more or less the same as moiling are:  arduous, Augean, backbreaking, demanding, difficult, formidable, grueling, heavy, herculean, hard, murderous, severe, strenuous, toilsome, tough.


Mental moiling can be occupied with matters that are abstruse, complex, complicated, elusive, insoluble, intricate, involved, knotty, opaque, recondite, spiny, thorny, stubborn, onerous, taxing, irksome, vexatious, stringent.


I’m beginning to think that there is something to this -oiled sound.

Sam Janis outside 67

Let’s see, oiled, annoyed, boiled, boisterous, broiled, coiled, foiled, moiled, roiled, soiled, spoiled, toiled, there’s a kind of common meaning that emerges here from the mere sound -oiled.

due volte

A kind of confusion and turmoil.


During the counterculture period, there was a certain roiling instability in our town.

janis park

She was calm and happy as the equipment managers toiled and moiled at their tasks.

emmanuelle beart

The roiling surf excited her and stirred her hopes.

femmina di prima clase

Moil:     Alarums and excursions, ballyhoo, blather, bobbery, foofaraw, helter-skelter, hurry-scurry. kerfuffle, pother, ruction, welter, williwaw.

françoise hardy

Fracas, mêlée, lather, tizzy.


There are strange things done in the midnight sun   By the men who moil for gold;  The Arctic Trails have their secret tales That would make your blood run cold;  The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,   But the queerest they ever did see   Was that night on the marge of Lake LeBarge    I cremated Sam McGee.


Her maiden name is Moil.

gatto e cane

Mollify: 14th century CE  ”to soften (a substance),” from Old French mollifier or directly from Late Latin mollificare ”make soft, mollify” from mollificus ”softening,” from Latin mollis ”soft” (see melt (v.)) + root of facere ”to make.”  Transferred sense of “soften in temper, appease, pacify” is recorded from early 15th century.

Gena and John 54

Proto Indo European root *mel


In Latin a tudicula was a machine for crushing olives.  Tudiculare meant ‘stir around.’  In Norman French this word had become toiler.



The Romans called a hammer a tudes and tundere meant ‘to beat.’  Both of these words are related to that olive bruising machine, the tudicula.

joey deborah

The happily named Thomas Crapper was one of the early makers of toilets in England.


His name is, amazingly enough, sheer coincidence, and not related to ‘crap’ or ‘crapper.’


Diseases, including cholera which still affects some three million people each year, can be largely prevented when effective sanitation and water treatment prevents fecal matter from contaminating waterways, groundwater and drinking water supplies.

margaret a

Infected water supplies can be treated to make the water safe for consumption and use.

marianne 65

There have been five main cholera outbreaks and pandemics since 1825, during one of which 10,000 people died in 1849 in London alone.

Macon Georgia Telegraph microfilm Feb 1839-Apr 1842 to 1 Oct 1839  We give below, the names of the persons who died in Augusta, of the prevailing epidemic, from its commencement up to the 26th ult:  John Abbott, Frederick Selleck, James U. Jackson, Wm. Thompson,  Henry E. Parmelee, Thomas Allen, Welcome Allen, Wiley Hargroves, Allen Andrew.

Sam Andrew, calling card 1860

My ancestor Allen Andrew, a physician, died in an Atlanta, Georgia, cholera epidemic about 1839.  I like to think that he died helping people, but I don’t really know that.


Now Sam McGee was from Tennessee, where the cotton blooms and blows.
Why he left his home in the South to roam ’round the Pole, God only knows.
He was always cold, but the land of gold seemed to hold him like a spell;
Though he’d often say in his homely way that “he’d sooner live in hell.” 

natalie 61

On a Christmas Day we were mushing our way over the Dawson trail.
Talk of your cold! through the parka’s fold it stabbed like a driven nail.
If our eyes we’d close, then the lashes froze till sometimes we couldn’t see;
It wasn’t much fun, but the only one to whimper was Sam McGee. 


And that very night, as we lay packed tight in our robes beneath the snow,
And the dogs were fed, and the stars o’erhead were dancing heel and toe,
He turned to me, and “Cap,” says he, “I’ll cash in this trip, I guess;
And if I do, I’m asking that you won’t refuse my last request.” 


Well, he seemed so low that I couldn’t say no; then he says with a sort of moan:
“It’s the cursèd cold, and it’s got right hold, till I’m chilled clean through to the bone.
Yet ’tain’t being dead — it’s my awful dread of the icy grave that pains;
So I want you to swear that, foul or fair, you’ll cremate my last remains.” 


A pal’s last need is a thing to heed, so I swore I would not fail;
And we started on at the streak of dawn; but God! he looked ghastly pale.
He crouched on the sleigh, and he raved all day of his home in Tennessee;
And before nightfall a corpse was all that was left of Sam McGee. 


There wasn’t a breath in that land of death, and I hurried, horror-driven,
With a corpse half hid that I couldn’t get rid, because of a promise given;
It was lashed to the sleigh, and it seemed to say: “You may tax your brawn and brains,
But you promised true, and it’s up to you, to cremate those last remains.” 

Washakie Badlands

Now a promise made is a debt unpaid, and the trail has its own stern code.
In the days to come, though my lips were dumb, in my heart how I cursed that load.
In the long, long night, by the lone firelight, while the huskies, round in a ring,
Howled out their woes to the homeless snows — Oh God! how I loathed the thing. 

z roiling

And every day that quiet clay seemed to heavy and heavier grow;
And on I went, though the dogs were spent and the grub was getting low;
The trail was bad, and I felt half mad, but I swore I would not give in;
And I’d often sing to the hateful thing, and it hearkened with a grin. 

nico 61

Till I came to the marge of Lake Lebarge, and a derelict there lay;
It was jammed in the ice, but I saw in a trice it was called the “Alice May.”
And I looked at it, and I thought a bit, and I looked at my frozen chum;
Then “Here,” said I, with a sudden cry, “is my cre-ma-tor-eum.” 


Some planks I tore from the cabin floor, and I lit the boiler fire;
Some coal I found that was lying around, and I heaped the fuel higher;
The flames just soared, and the furnace roared — such a blaze you seldom see;
And I burrowed a hole in the glowing coal, and I stuffed in Sam McGee. 

nina 60

Then I made a hike, for I didn’t like to hear him sizzle so;
And the heavens scowled, and the huskies howled, and the wind began to blow.
It was icy cold, but the hot sweat rolled down my cheeks, and I don’t know why;
And the greasy smoke in an inky cloak went streaking down the sky. 


I do not know how long in the snow I wrestled with grisly fear;
But the stars came out and they danced about ere again I ventured near;
I was sick with dread, but I bravely said: “I’ll just take a peep inside.
I guess he’s cooked, and it’s time I looked”; … then the door I opened wide. 


And there sat Sam, looking cool and calm, in the heart of the furnace roar;
And he wore a smile you could see a mile, and said: “Please close that door.
It’s fine in here, but I greatly fear, you’ll let in the cold and storm —
Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee, it’s the first time I’ve been warm.” 

Non c'è niente da fare

   There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.


Now, isn’t that a heartwarming tale?


Robert Service, the Bard of the Yukon wrote that.

ocin 62

I love the meter and the rhyme scheme.


Service wrote other such immortal odes. One was The Shooting of Dan McGrew.


Service wrote his first poem when he was six.

Ora che cosa?

God bless the cakes and bless the jam;  Bless the cheese and the cold boiled ham:  Bless the scones Aunt Jeannie makes,   And save us all from bellyaches.   Amen


OK, back to moiling.   Hey, these men aren’t moiling.


These men did with the hermits toil, With their hands in daily moil.

pamela tiffin

Moil first meant to moisten.  Later, the meaning became to work hard in unpleasantly wet conditions, from Old French moillier, ultimately from Latin mollis soft.


Fun dein moil tsu gots oyerin,”  is Yiddish for, “From your mouth to god’s ears,”  which means something like “Let’s hope god hears you say that and that she will grant your request.  This “moil” comes from German Maul, mouth, and has nothing to do with our word moil.


… and moylynge in their gaye manoures and mansions    (1548  Latimer)

patti d'arbanville

And moyleth for no more than their hyre.       (1559  Mirror for Magistrates)


To toyle and moyle for worldly dross.     (1580   Gillflowers Poems)


Here was labour, drudge and moyle.       1593

paul jones

… molestation or moyle, miserie   1612



But moile not too much under Ground.        1625   Bacon

päffgen 65

Vega hath spent 20 chapters wherein he moyles in sweate and dust.     1629   Burton



The Masters say not what excesse of toile and moile servants undergoe.     1642


Their life for that space was hard travail or moyle.      1659


This night his weekly moil is at end.     1785


Enduring moil and toil in the trenches before Troy.         1856


It is for love of me that he comes on foot and with all that moil.          1881

piaf reinhardt

Edith Piaf                        Django Reinhardt

quale disco scegliere

That with the madding moil the waves themselves Inflamed.        1855


It is laughable after I have got out of the moil to think how miserably it affected me for the moment.         1864     Hawthorne


Deaf are his ears with the moil of the mill.          1885    Stevenson


The moil of death upon them.            1856    Elizabeth Barrett Browning


Mwile, mire.   ‘A’s a-gettin’ vurder in the mwile, i.e.,  he’s going from bad to worse      1888   Berkshire Glossary


1582     Thee seas, thee skies so sprightfulye moyling


1600         Much moiled they were all and sore toiled in this untoward.

s  68

1604       Who is moyled with heavinesse…


1640      This while Alcidamant and Griolanis were no less moiled, for the great knight of the Sun so stoutly withstood them.


1653      We had been miserably moiled and our hurts that were great but ill looked unto.


1823       He seemed sadly moiled with matrimonial miseries.

Linda Huey studio Boston, MA

1560      We moiled and turmoiled ourselues in studying and deuising howe we maye come by giftes of glassy fortune.


1881    They moile themselues sore with the manners and condition of the nurse.

scarpette dorate

1600 Hakluyt    To moyle themselves with abject and base works.

sd 66

1611   Chapman  Iliad      No more tug one another thus, nor moyle yourselves.


1673   Marvell   He moyles himself with tumbling and tossing it that he is in danger of melting his Sperma Ceti.


1869   Tennyson   But ‘e tued an’ moil’d ‘issen deäd.


1567   Golding   They moyled why others myght not geve like gift as wele as shee.


1889    He’s tewin’ an’ moilin’ aboot for iver.


If I died and went straight to hell, it would take me a week to realize I wasn’t at work anymore.


To All Employees:        New Incentive Plan      Work — or get fired.


Men At Work         Women work all the time.     Men have to put up signs when they work.


Why is Monday so far from Friday but Friday so close to Monday?


Why aren’t you working?               I didn’t see you coming.

sonja kristina 75

Por fin es VIERNES.              Finally it’s FRIDAY.



When the coffee stops working it is probably the right time to get drunk.


Three drunks get in a cab. The driver thinks he’ll play a trick on them, so he starts his engine, then turns it off. “We’re there,” he announces. The first drunk pays him. The second says “Thank you,” and the third hits him. “Hey, what was that for?”  ”Next time go a little slower. You almost killed us.”


If you’re going to wish for impossible things, here’s a starting list.    1. earn money without working,  2. be smart without studying, 3. love without getting hurt, and 4. eat without getting fat.


I would be more inclined to grow up if I saw that it worked out for anyone else.

twiggy newton

A lot of sleep can not only lengthen your life, it can make work hours shorter.


I could be the world’s laziest man if I applied myself.

uschi obermaier

You’re tired because you’re overworked. The population of this country is 237 million. 104 million are retired. That leaves 133 million to do the work. There are 85 million in school, which leaves 48 million to do the work. Of this there are 29 million employed by the federal government, leaving 19 million to do the work. 2.8 million are in the Armed Forces, which leaves 16.2 million to do the work. Take from the total the 14,800,000 people who work for State and City Governments and that leaves 1.4 million to do the work. At any given time there are 188,000 people in hospitals, leaving 1,212,000 to do the work. Now, there are 1,211,998 people in prisons. That leaves just two people to do the work. You and me. And I’m sitting here writing work jokes.


VACATION DAYS:   All employees will take their vacation at the same time every year. The vacation days are as follows: Jan. 1, July 4 & Dec. 25

veruschka penn

One way to keep a healthy level of insanity in the workplace:   In the memo field of all your checks, write “for sexual favors.”


The fact that no one understands you doesn’t mean you’re an artist.


OK, all right, I’m going to have a positive attitude about my self destructive habits.


“I have an idea, boss,” Einstein’s chauffeur said. “I’ve heard you give this speech so many times. I’ll bet I could give it for you.” Einstein donned the chauffeur’s cap and jacket. The chauffeur gave a beautiful rendition of Einstein’s speech and even answered a few questions expertly. Then a professor asked an extremely esoteric question. Without missing a beat, the chauffeur fixed the professor with a steely stare and said, “Sir, the answer to that question is so simple that I will let my chauffeur, who is sitting in the back, answer it for me.”


Someday, we’ll look back on this, laugh nervously, and change the subject.

wanda jackson 60

CASUAL WORK ATMOSPHERE in a help wanted ad means: We don’t pay enough to expect that you’ll dress up. A couple of the real daring guys wear earrings.

woolworth 1926

A vaudeville joke:      Boss:     You should have been here at 9.30 a.m.             Employee: Why what happened?


The boss says, “do you believe in life after death and the supernatural?”    ”Not really,” I replied.    ”I was wondering” he said. “Because yesterday after you left to go to your grandmother’s funeral, she came by to see you.”


I quit my job at the post office.  They handed me a letter to deliver and I thought, “This isn’t for me.”


The trouble with being punctual is that there’s never anybody there to appreciate it.


A musical director stands in front of the band and says, ”When a musician just can’t handle his instrument and doesn’t improve when given help, they take away the instrument, and give him two sticks, and make him a drummer.”   So the drummer says, ”And if he can’t handle even that, they take away one of his sticks and make him a conductor.”

Timothy O'Sullivan

You sound reasonable.   God, I probably should be taking more drugs.


Why can’t you play hide-and-seek with mountains?     Because they peak.

zPam Bob

The devil visited a lawyer’s office and made him an offer. “I can arrange some things for you, ” the devil said. “I’ll increase your income five-fold. Your partners will love you; your clients will respect you; you’ll have four months of vacation each year and live to be a hundred. All I require in return is that your wife’s soul, your children’s souls, and their children’s souls rot in hell for eternity.”        The lawyer thought for a moment. “What’s the catch?” he asked.


Charles Dickens:   He wrote continuously.  In the middle of parties, crowded rooms, there would be twenty people in the room all talking and he talked the most, and kept on writing through it all. He would take a twenty mile walk in the afternoon and come home and write while all around him were chattering and carrying on.  Moil and toil?  He didn’t know what those words meant.  He wrote as he breathed, always and constantly. Driving his pen as a madman would.  He was a happy man despite one of the worst childhoods that anyone could have, a childhood which he expertly chronicled, writing ceaselessly in the middle of the party.  His energy and humor never flagged.  If you love it, it’s not work.


Q: Have you lived in this town all your life?               A: Not yet.


See you next week?

z Sam-Ben-Tucson final

Ben Nieves             Sam Andrew         It might look like I’m doing nothing, but at the cellular level I’m really quite busy.