Today I’m going to show you what it means to “work around the clock.” This is an easy one—you deserve a break every now and then !
To work around the clock means to give extra effort and to work many, many extra hours. The image here is of someone working hard, all the time, as the hour- and minute-hands of a clock advance through a full day.
This doesn’t necessarily mean twenty-four straight hours; it might mean that, but not necessarily. However, it does mean a lot of hours, and at any time of the day or night.
Ukraine’s rail workers are working around the clock to keep the trains running, to move people and material around the vast country. Most train and transportation systems are 24-hour operations anyway. When I say that the Ukrainian Railways workers are working around the clock, I mean they are putting in a lot of extra hours, at all hours of the day and night, to achieve their goal. Individual people are working many, many more hours than usual.
Closer to home, I can think of another person working around the clock. His name is John Ray III and he is now the unlucky CEO of FTX, the cryptocurrency exchange that imploded in November. John Ray is working around the clock to figure out what can be salvaged from the sudden collapse of a popular crypto exchange.
He has an impossible job. He’s an expert in turnarounds, restructurings, and bankruptcy. That’s a polite way of saying—he is the person you call when a big company is in a massive amount of trouble and needs to be rescued, like, immediately. When Enron collapsed, he was the one who stepped in. Now, he says that what happened at FTX was far worse than what happened at Enron. So he has his work cut out for him to clean up the mess! You can bet he and his team are working around the clock to salvage some value for FTX customers.
When I say he’s working around the clock…I don’t know what time John Ray’s alarm goes off in the morning. And I don’t know what time he climbs into bed at night—or if he even sleeps in a bed. He might sleep on the couch in an office, I don’t know. It’s not important. But I can tell you this, he gets up early and he works until very, very late. He is working around the clock. I think he was appointed at 4:30 in the morning. Imagine what that call was like! He’s working around the clock.
Our friend Elon Musk told employees at Twitter—the ones he hadn’t already fired, and the ones that hadn’t already quit—he told them they had to work around the clock and be “hardcore” if they wanted to keep working there. And a lot of Twitter employees took his invitation to quit. Many of them said it’s fine to work around the clock for something you believe in; they’re not afraid of hard work. But they don’t want to work around the clock for an organization that’s falling apart and doesn’t value them.
It's starting to snow in the U.S.; I saw a story that some parts of New York State were expecting three feet of snow! Three feet of snow is a lot, even for the snowiest parts of the country. When that happens—and God bless them—a lot of people work around the clock. First, you’ve got the people who clear the streets and sidewalks. With a snowstorm that big, you work around the clock to clear the snow. You can’t just wait for it to end and then start plowing; you have to plow the whole time.
Next, you have police, firefighters, and other public safety workers who respond to snow-related emergencies. They work around the clock. Utility companies work around the clock, keeping the electricity on. Snow falls on power lines and can cut power; that’s not safe in cold weather. So utility workers work around the clock. And television news also works around the clock. Reporters stand outside and tell people not—for any reason—to go outside. They do this around the clock.
JR’s song of the week
Today’s song of the week is “Better Days” by Dermot Kennedy. He’s an Irish singer and he wrote this song during the pandemic. He said it’s about patience, believing in a better future, no matter how bad things seem. He said he wants the song to remind people that things will improve.
He’s got a good voice, too. I like this one a lot—thanks JR. I feel like if you take JR’s style of song and my style of song, and you mix them together, you might get this one. Good job this week, JR, choosing “Better Days” by Dermot Kennedy.
See you next time!
And that’s all for today’s Plain English. Thanks so much, as always, for making Plain English part of your English learning routine. I love sharing this time with you every week.
If you don’t want the fun to end, remember that we produce a lot more content every week as part of the Plain English Plus+ membership. If you’re a member, you get access to a step-by-step walkthrough video, a whole page full of English quizzes and exercises, and the chance to practice working around the clock.
I don’t mean you practice actually working around the clock. That would not be much fun. I mean you practice using the expression “around the clock,” and any other expression you learn on Plain English. Plus members, you know what I mean. There’s that special practice area below each expression. You write your own examples using the expression you learned, and I give you personalized feedback.
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See you next week!