Furloughs and Furlongs

The word furlough [ˈfɜː(ɹ).ləʊ / ˈfɝ.loʊ] seems to be appearing quite a lot at the moment. A note I got from my accountant today included it in the sentence “Do you want me to put you on furlough pay for the next few months?”.

The UK government is paying 80% of their usual pay to some of those who can’t currently work due to the pandemic. This is known as furlough pay, it seems.

I normally work from home anyway – so no change there, and am very fortunate that I can continue to earn money from my website. My social life has disappeared, or moved online, and I only go outside to buy food and for occasional walks. How are things where you are?

In a search I just did in Google news, the word furlough appears in such headlines as “Formula 1 puts half its staff on furlough”, “Liverpool reverses plan to furlough staff after backlash”, “… company to furlough workers, cut executive pay” and “1 in 4 city workers will get full pay while on furlough”.

According to The Free Dictionary a furlough is:

1. a vacation or leave of absence, as one granted to a person in military service; leave.
2. a usu. temporary layoff from work.
3. a temporary leave of absence authorized for a prisoner from a penitentiary.

Other definitions are available

It comes from the Dutch verlof (leave, furlough, permission), probably from the Middle Low German verlōf (furlough, permission), from the verb verlōven (to allow) [source].

I get this word mixed up with furlong [ˈfɜː(ɹ)lɒŋ], which means “A unit of length equal to 220 yards, 1⁄8 mile, or 201.168 meters, now only used in measuring distances in horse racing”. This comes from the Old English furlang, from furh (furrow) & lang (long) [source].

A furlang was originally “the length of the drive of the plough before it is turned, usually 40 rods*, the eighth of a mile” [source].

*A rod is “a unit of length equal to 1 pole, a perch, 1⁄4 chain, 5 1⁄2 yards, 16 1⁄2 feet, or exactly 5.0292 meters” [source]

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