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What Does "All in a Day's Work" Mean?

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  • Written By: E. Reeder
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  • Last Modified Date: 04 October 2014
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The phrase “all in a day’s work” is an idiom. This means it is a figure of speech with a meaning other than what it appears to mean. In this case, it means that even though something may seem unpleasant, challenging or outlandish, it is all part of the routine that goes into one’s job or other responsibilities.

This idiom could be used as a reply to someone mentioning how difficult a task or responsibility sounds. For example, a person might commend a friend on his ability to stay calm in his job as a customer service representative, despite the rude nature of many of those customers. In response, the friend might say, “It’s all in a day’s work.”

Many jobs have unpleasant responsibilities, such as those given to an animal control officer. These workers must round up animals that are sometimes wild, diseased, filthy or vicious, which can be dangerous. These officers also may be called on to enforce laws and regulations dealing with animals, such as fining people who let their pets run loose. In addition to dealing with problem animals, therefore, they also must deal with irate or difficult members of the public. To an animal control officer, this is all in a day’s work.

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Other workers who must accept unpleasant conditions include garbage collectors, also known as sanitation engineers. They collect, process, transport and dispose of the trash and refuse left by households and businesses. This is one job that most people would not want to do, especially since it is such a dirty and odiferous line of work. Sanitation engineers, like many workers, mostly consider the unpleasant conditions to be all in a day’s work.

Exterminators also have unpleasant jobs and could reasonably say, “All in a day’s work,” in response to questions about their responsibilities. They may have to deal with thousands of angry bees ready to sting them as they try to get these dangerous pests out of a house or a barn. People who exterminate also may routinely deal with rodents and cockroaches, often in tight spaces and using potentially hazardous chemicals.

Parents also may find the need to use this phrase in connection with their child-rearing responsibilities. While much of being a parent is pleasant, parents must sometimes deal with kids who are unruly, disrespectful or not performing at their best in school. They may even have to work more than one job to provide for their children. Dealing with all of it is all in a day’s work for parents.

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bythewell
Post 3

@browncoat - I like being able to say this without any sarcasm or irony about my day and I think most people should be able to do the same. A lot of jobs seem extraordinary when looked at from an outside perspective.

But the zookeeper doesn't think it's strange that they have to pick up elephant poo or craft games for the tigers. A writer doesn't find it unusual to type out the equivalent of two essays worth of words per day, and so forth.

It's nice to be able to bring up a fact like this at a dinner party and then be able to just brush it off with this idiom.

browncoat
Post 2

@croydon - I usually hear people say this sarcastically when they don't think a task should be part of their daily work. Like a teacher who ends up having to pick up litter from the playground or something like that.

If anything the task is usually something they might consider to be beneath them, rather than out of their experience.

croydon
Post 1

Sometimes people will say this ironically as well, saying that something is "all in a day's work" even though it was actually very challenging or out of the ordinary for them.

I guess it's a way of being humble about their abilities by saying something wasn't that much of a big deal. But in a way it actually makes them seem more capable since it shows that they are able to take on tasks that are outside their own experience.

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