Stephen Girard job n. a task or occupation comprised of make-work or busywork; a repetitive undertaking. Editorial Note: This term does not appear to have ever been common. Thanks to Bill Simon of Garvey Schubert Barer for suggesting this term. Etymological Note: The story told in the 1969 citation is repeated by many sources and is presumed to be the origin of the expression. Stephen Girard, 1750–1831, was a French-born business tycoon and philanthropist who made his wealth in Philadelphia during the American Revolutionary War and War of 1812. (source: Double-Tongued Dictionary)

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  1. Joel Etra says:

    I am unable to find the connection between Girard and “busy work.”
    Does it perhaps refer to the workd that the children in the “college” did?

  2. Take a look at the story told in the 1969 citation above.

  3. Carolyn says:

    In the November 1975, there was an article in Philadelphia Magazine called “How to Talk Like a Philadelphian” by Jim Quinn that discussed various Philadelphia accents and phrases. One of them was “Stephen Girard Work”, which meant busywork. The article specifically mentioned moving bricks back and forth across a street and Stephen Girard’s distaste for idleness.

  4. Hey Joel, this a few years late, but perhaps for others who will stumble upon this like I did, and can not find the connection like yourself, I figured as an Alumnus of the the “Hum” what we call Girard College (Founded by Stephen Girard, wait till you find out how the word “Hum” the way it is used at Girard came about), that I would explain it without getting too long winded.

    The connection between Girard and busy work, is that during his (Stephen Girard) lifetime, Girard has fancied himself in keeping busy and never resting, always find some sort of work/business to keep himself busy.  Stephen Girard was a Banker, Merchant, Humanitarian, Mariner, Patriot, Philanthropist, Farmer among many other things and in his later years right before he died he was a Railroader. 

    Here are two quotes to also help explain the type of man Stephen Girard was.

    “If I knew I should die tomorrow, I would plant a tree today”

    “My deeds must be my life. When I am gone, they will speak for me.”

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