When I think of this idiom/phrase, I think about everything I do in a day — clean the house, cook, run errands, write, etc., etc., etc., and this phrase could mean that. Or… it could mean more than that.
I’ve met people whose job it is to go inside a prison and break up fights, or a soldier who puts him/herself in harm’s way, or a roofer or iron worker who works 90 stories in the air, or the Bering Sea fisherman who braves the storm to bring in the catch of the day. Those occupations are seen as all in a day’s work, but are they? And to whom? When you mix the ordinary (the cooking and cleaning) with the unordinary (the soldier, roofer or fisherman) the phrase takes on an altogether different meaning to the different people..
For instance, at some point, everyone has problems with their plumbing, specifically their sewer system. It’s easy, the homeowner calls the sewer service and they come to access. The repairman needs to get into the sewer line (how gross!) and he wades through the stink in his hip boots to find the core of the problem. That repairman understands that his wading is part of his day’s work, it’s all in a day’s work, and he states the phrase as a matter of fact. He then explains his work to someone he as just met, and knowing the other person will think it is gross, he may say the phrase, “It’s all in a day’s work” with irony or sarcasm. This garners a different connotation.
If he were to use the phrase ironically, he is aiming for the opposite effect, making the listener think he does not like the work he does and he thinks it gross. Usually, this is done so one does not have to explain why anyone would want to have a dangerous or dirty job and you know how other people feel about it. When we speak ironically, it’s in how we project the voice — such as, oh, yeah! sure! — hey, what can I say, it’s all in a day’s work! Irony is great as an end all to a conversation or explanation. What can the other person come back with if they think they know the speaker understands the situation?
Sarcasm is different, but it can also be used when using irony, but this time it is used to mock someone or a situation or to show contempt. This would be when the sewer man knows no one else is going to do the dirty work and he’s fed up with being treated as a second-class citizen for doing the job. It’s like saying, let’s see you do it. When we speak sarcastically, the voice projects different again, accusingly — such as, hump, yeah, it’s all in a day’s work. It’s a bitter voice, it’s sarcasm. The entire point of sarcasm is to hurt or to cut to the core of that person or situation.
(On another note, I am back. This blog will continue each Tuesday and Friday — if you want to know about an idiom, cliche, or phrase, or simply a word — how to use it, where it comes from, anything….just let me know, and I will include it in my writing.)