Brain Food: Words-Worth career

Do you worry about your 'career'? Of course you do. Whether you're just starting out, moving along nicely, contemplating a change or planning to wind down, there's always something to fret about. Ideally, a career ought to be steady, controlled and planned. Which is odd, because that's the opposite of what the word originally meant. There's a clue in the matching verb. When a youth in a pimped-up Citroen Saxo goes 'careering' down the high street, it's not a steady progression. It's a mad dash. The French carriere, from which the word derives, meant a racecourse. The ultimate source is the Latin carrus, a wagon. In English, from the 16th century, it meant a short gallop at high speed, or a cavalry charge. It acquired its present meaning of a professional life in the 19th century. Since then, there have been various improvements. In the mid-20th century the Americans introduced the idea of 'career men' and 'career girls'. But some will be more interested in a more recent idea: the 'career break'.

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