piece of work

piece of work

Meaning

  • a complex, tricky, or odd person
  • an item or part of something – especially of art or craft (Example 4)
  • somebody although generally interesting – is weird to get along with for long time
  • unaware of one’s stupidity
  • someone whose silliness and stupidity never stops to surprise you
  • a person who is bizarre and yet charming at the same time
  • an authentic personality or a unique person

Example Sentences

  1. My friend has the weirdest of opinions, he’s a real piece of work.
  2. My husband can’t cook the food without the company of whole family. He is a piece of work.
  3. My friend is a nasty piece of work – he always talks about skydiving.
  4. I love this piece of work by Steven Wills – he is a wonderful painter.
  5. “Thugs” is a piece of work that seems to have been written in Dickens’s time, perhaps by Wilkie Collins, a friend of Dickens.

Origin

This Phrase was first used in Shakespeare’s Hamlet in 1602, where he wrote:

“What a piece of work is a Man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an angel! In apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world! The paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me: no, nor woman neither, though by your smiling you seem to say so.

More recently, in the 20th century, the phrase ‘a piece of work‘ has been coined to mean ‘a really bad person, lacking morality and scruples‘. This goes further than Shakespeare’s usage which, while appearing to glorify man, is ironic in suggesting that man is very far from a masterpiece.

Synonyms

  • exercise
  • work
  • essay
  • composition
  • dissertation
  • part of a set or work
  • an item

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