- Life In London Magazine
- The Weirdest Job Titles Past and Present
The Weirdest Job Titles Past and Present
“What do you do for a living?” is perhaps the most common icebreaker of them all. But what if your job title is so convoluted you need a 20 minute monologue to explain what you do?
Historically, it’s the Royals who win the award for the most ridiculous job titles. In June 2012 the Royal Household staff lists from 1660 to 1924 were published online for the first time, and we got to see some of the more bizarre duties required of people employed by the monarchs. Back in the 17th century roughly a thousand members of staff would have been employed by the Palace, therefore it’s little wonder some of their job titles are a little out of the ordinary. In fact, historians reckon that a large percentage of the British population have ancestors who worked for the Royal Family. At least they provided multiple job opportunities.
Keeper of the Lions in the Tower is a fairly self-explanatory, and presumably arduous job, as it can’t have been an easy feat looking after a pack of hungry lions in the Tower of London. Thankfully they were not, as one might immediately suspect, used to torture prisoners; the Tower of London was a zoo for around 600 years during Medieval times.
One of the more curious titles is that of Moletaker – did they literally take care of the moles, as in the animal rather than the beauty spot? The British History website points to this being an outdoor profession, and we know it was regarded as a trade, much like rat-catching and bug-taking. After all, there was no Rentokil in the 1700s.
A Laundress of the Body Linen was in charge of changing the Royal bed linen; Queen Victoria for instance had a laundress as well as dozens of other maids in charge of specific tasks to do with cleaning, sewing and nursing.
It seems that, when it came to certain jobs, employers couldn’t think of snappy phrases, hence the Necessary Woman to the Corridor and Entrance Hall. Both Strewer of Herbs and Master of the Game of Cock Fighting are descriptive enough, but Groom of the Stool deserves a little explanation. While in plain terms the job was quite literally to dispose of the monarch’s stools, the person who was permitted to get this up close and personal to the Royal was naturally someone they confided in more than any other. As well as throwing out excrement the Groom was let in on many secrets, and regarded with a mixture of fear and admiration by the rest of the court. Oh the irony.
In 1750, a Groom of the Stool would have earned around £1,200 a year, a sum of money that equates to £180,000 today, not a bad wage for being in charge of someone’s toilet. A Laundress of the Body Linen would have made just £37,500 nowadays, while poor old moletakers were to be found at the bottom of the ladder, receiving just £8 a year for their efforts, around £1,200 today.
But not all wacky job titles are confined to the past. What do you think a Vision Clearance Engineer does? If we break it down into engineering, clearance and vision, it becomes obvious: window cleaning. In 2007 an internet recruitment company carried out a survey to find the most ridiculous job titles of all time, and this was voted the top choice. Among the many runners up was Education Centre Nourishment Production Assistant, in other words dinner lady.
In 2010 a Welsh council decided to rename the position of lifeguard as “Wet Leisure Assistant”, which has all sorts of dodgy connotations, and thankfully doesn’t seem to have caught on anywhere else. Other insalubrious names include Skull Grinder, which is as bad it sounds, as the position entails cleaning the passages of pig’s skulls.
Many companies twist their job titles to make them sound more interesting - yours truly once applied for a job as Media Assistant at a major broadcasting company when the job consisted of little more than stacking tapes on shelves in a warehouse. In a similar vein, the role of Media Distribution Officer is more commonly known as doing a paper round, and Space Consultant certainly adds a whole new dimension to being an Estate Agent.
Some titles are downright mystifying and only make sense to people within their corporation (in some cases, even those with the job have a hard time deciphering their role). What would a Contributor Relations Executive do? Nope, we don’t know either, but we have an inkling it has little to do with relationships or contributions. Would the Head of Verbal Communications bear some relation to the education sector? No, it’s a fancy name for a Secretary. And if anyone figures out the duties of a Studio Opener, a Flueologist or a Mobile Sustenance Facilitator do send your answers on the back of a postcard please.