From Fartistes to Chicken Sexers: The Strangest Jobs You Could Have

Belly Builder

Food lovers might call themselves belly builders, but this term refers to the person who builds the main cavity, or belly, of a piano. Before being applied to the piano in this sense, the word belly was used as an unofficial term for the curved part of a violin. The piano’s belly is technically called the soundboard; a belly builder engages in “bellying” or outfitting the soundboard with everything needed in the piano’s interior, like the bridge that guides all the piano strings.

Apologizer

Some industries are transforming the verb apologize into a legit line of work. By adding the -r at the end, these industries—like Southwest Airlines, operating in one of the most apologize-worthy businesses out there—have created a whole new profession: gainful employment saying sorry to customers for perceived wrongdoings.

Abecedarian

Next to tap the water cooler—or the old schoolyard well—is the abecedarian, whose name looks impossible to pronounce. This is oddly unfortunate given that such individuals were responsible for teaching children their ABCs in the 1800s. Such a monumental task is urgent, not unusual, but it’s odd that the word teacher couldn’t suffice. We now use this term for someone who is learning the alphabet, not teaching it.

Ale-Conner

Now to the ale cooler! Since the 1300s, ale-conners were officials who went from tavern to tavern tasting ales to ensure they were fit to drink and sell. The job was taken very seriously, as the other lofty Latinate title, “Gustator Cervisiae,” (“taster of beer”) clearly shows. Conner comes from the Old English cunnere for “inspector” or “examiner.”

Back Washer

In the reality of days gone by, back washers were laborers in wool manufacturing plants. They scoured wool with soap and water to remove impurities. The origin of the term is unknown, but maybe the washing took place in the back of the factory? Now the process is automated. Automatic backwashers sound like retrofuture shower gadgets from the Jetsons.

Chicken Sexer

There’s absolutely no need for your brain to slip into defilement when it comes to figuring out how chicken sexers occupy their time. These folks simply determine the biological sex of baby chicks. Apparently, the most reliable chicken sexing method is to “gently squeeze the poop out of the chick” so that the sexer can see the reproductive organs. The more we write about this, the less we want to know, so let’s move on.

Cuddler

Being a certified cuddler, as in “one who has received platonic cuddle training,” is little perplexing. Drawing clear solid lines is crucial…but is it possible? Look up the definition of cuddle, and you’ll find that, in addition to “hold close” and “hug tenderly,” there’s also “fondle.” Fondling and caressing can be platonic, but these words have been too often used in steamy romance novels that the lines are uncomfortably blurred. Despite our reservations, a cuddler’s job entails only  nonsexual snuggling, conversation, and massage. Cuddlers even go on ‘friend dates.’ Just as long as it doesn’t turn into a paid friend-with-benefits situation. There’s another word for that.

Face Feeler

This is yet another example of a professional term derived from doing just what it sounds like: feeling faces. Also known as “sensory scientists,” face feelers are hired to test the effectiveness of personal care items like lotions, cleansers, serums, and razors. They undergo a three-month training process, after which they can, for example, tactilely measure the slipperiness or drag of a particular lotion on the face. In describing the screening process to become a face feeler, Judy Heylmun—who’s been feeling faces for 35 years—says it involves questions like “Do you have hands?” But she’s probably just being facetious.

Fart-Smell Reducer

Le Pétomane’s audiences could have benefited from such an individual, responsible for Febreezing the auditorium between shows. But that’s not exactly what this laborer does; in fact, the title is incomplete. The full effect comes with a whopping sextuple string of nouns: Flatulence Smell Reduction Underwear Insert Maker. Oh, and how. Professional titles build and become more creative as needs are identified. Noun strings get bloated quickly, but this series works together to index a highly unusual, but apparently worthwhile, product and the person who makes it. Yes, walk into your local corporate big box store and you might just find “Subtle Butt Reusable Gas Neutralizers.” The flatulence smell reduction underwear insert maker (whew!) engineers these pantaloon pads by harnessing the power of carbon to tame insane methane.

Groom of the Stool

In the early days of the English monarchy, the Groom of the Stool was the most important groom, or “male servant,” ever allowed near King Henry VIII’s private quarters—his hind quarters to be exact. The groom was responsible for analyzing the king’s bowel movements and bearing the royal portable toilet, or “close stool.” The irony of bearing the stool (both “toilet” and “poop”) isn’t lost on us today. We wonder if the groom had to cleanse the royal rump and other noble nether regions as well. The king’s poop may have stunk, but the job didn’t. The Groom of the Stool was one of the most powerful figures in the king’s retinue because so intimate a relationship meant being privy (heehee) to the king’s secrets.

Paint Drying Watcher

With the help of a triple noun string, a paint drying watcher, does exactly that. A little more is involved, though, as one would imagine (really?). This employee paints material and times how long the paint takes to dry. Painting subway stations, for example, requires a paint with a fast enough dry time so passengers can make a safe dash. Watching paint dry relates to the idiomatic expression of what horribly dull thing you’d rather do than the thing in question you think is worse: “I’d rather watch paint dry than visit the pine needle museum.” Well, if you did watch paint dry, you’d still be bored out of your gourd, but you could be making some money to paint to the town with later.

Antigropelos Maker

To some, the antigropelos maker is not an anti-groping device creator, though that should probably exist, too. (Would it be a spring-loaded iron fist? Invisible force-field activated on subways?). Intriguing, but this craftsman is one who made waterproof leggings in the 1800s (and probably well before). The word antigropelos likely comes from an irregular Greek hybrid of anti- (“against”), hygrós (“wet”), and pēlós (“mud”). Leggings were introduced in Scotland in the 1300s and were only worn by men until the 1800s. Guys must’ve been getting in a lot of sticky situations to warrant an entire antigropelos legging industry. Search for leggings on Dictionary.com and you’ll find our first definition still connects to the idea of antigropelos: leggings are coverings from ankle to knee worn by soldiers and riders. The athleisure version is second.

Fartiste

Le Pétomane was the Willy Wonka of farting. In the late 1800s, Joseph Pujol, a renowned fartiste, performed under the French name meaning “The Fartomaniac.” The word fartiste is a humorous English-French hybrid of fart and artiste. Due to the sheer oddity of this profession, we don’t recognize the term. Another playful name people used was flatulist, (yes, that's a play on the word flatulence). In his day, the famous farteur became the highest paid performer in France, astounding audiences with his ability to toot an endless variety of fart sounds. His famous anus could also "inhale" and eject water. Thomas Edison recorded a performance, but it’s been lost in the anals—annals!—of history.