"Toil tackler"

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The bio from a recent talk announcement described the speaker as a "Production Engineer …, a job which, for the most part, means he is a professional toil tackler."

That's a striking phrase, and one that was new to me. I soon discovered that it's new to Google as well, though the search turned up the source of its constituent words in Chapter 6, "Eliminating Toil", from a Workbook associated with  Google's Site Reliability Engineering (=SRE) page.

My impression is that the word toil has gone out of fashion in recent decades, and the Ngrams graph supports that view:

Its use in recently published books seems mainly to be connected with witchcraft (through association with the witches' chant in Macbeth), and with enslaved labor and (especially oppressive forms of) factory labor and farm labor.

It does seem to be making a bit of a comeback, relative to the more generic term work:

Anyhow, I like the idea of finding ways to reduce "toil" in various aspects of life and work.



  1. Martin Holterman said,

    December 4, 2023 @ 11:05 am

    Toil = time off in lieu? At least, that's the only way I ever use it.

  2. Nathan said,

    December 4, 2023 @ 11:15 am

    As the graph clearly shows, it's far too old to be an acronym.

  3. K said,

    December 4, 2023 @ 11:35 am

    Both toil and TOIL are pretty common words in my software job. But "toil" is the only one I would ever imagine someone using outside of their job, like in a book.

    It means exactly what it sounds like: unpleasant, usually rote work. In tech, the implication of toil is that it can either be automated (like generating a dashboard of charts to summarize software crashes), and/or you can do something else to prevent it from ever happening (like eliminating the most common causes of crashes) – and you should do this, to save [misery, time, money].

  4. KWillets said,

    December 4, 2023 @ 1:11 pm

    SRE evolved from DevOps, a more accurate portmanteau alluding to the fact that software is often released with needs that trigger both operations work and further development.

    "Toil" seems new to me, although I understand the context — it's the work that could and should have been automated but wasn't. Sometimes that's a mistake; sometimes that's a decision to let SRE deal with it until the root cause can be addressed.

  5. a s said,

    December 9, 2023 @ 7:19 pm

    Also see:


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