Parergon: The supplement beyond the primary work

Recently I came across the word “parergon”, which was new to me. When I looked it up, I learned that it refers to “a piece of work that is supplementary to or a byproduct of a larger work” (Oxford) or “a supplementary issue or embellishment” (wikipedia). It is something (ornament or frame for art, appendix to a book, etc.) that supplements the “ergon”, the primary work. I hadn’t encountered “ergon” either, but hey! It rings a bell from “ergonomics”, which refers to “the study of people’s efficiency in their working environment” (Oxford again). The common root “erg” refers to work. Nifty!

Parergon apparently can also refer to an activity outside of your main occupation (hobby, presumably, or what today would be called a “side hustle” if you’re making money from it). May we all have many parerga – it’s not all about the ergon!

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I knew this already. I learned something new!