Odd Jobs or Dream Jobs: 10 Well-Named Careers

Knocker-up

Still deciding what your dream job is? Here are ten unique occupations that you may not have considered. If you’re an early riser, you may consider becoming a knocker-up. Chiefly an occupation from pre-alarm clock, industrial revolution Britain, this job title has nothing to do with the American sense of knock up, meaning “to make someone pregnant.” Knocker-ups went from house to house early in the morning to wake up their clients at pre-specified times. They would carry truncheons, long batons that they would use to rattle the window panes of heavy sleepers to wake them. This job became defunct in the early 1900s when it was replaced by the modern alarm clock.

Hayward

If you have a fondness for fences and are handy with a hammer, you might make a good hayward. This important officer is tasked with maintaining the hedges and fences of a township so that cattle do not break through and wander about the fields. This word and occupation has existed since the 13th century, and comes from the Old English roots heie meaning “hedge, fence,” and weard meaning “guardian.”

Peterman

The word peterman or peteman has described a variety of occupations throughout its history. When the word first entered English in the 1400s a peterman was a fisherman. Eventually this meaning dropped away, and new definitions emerged based on the American term peter or pete, slang for “trunk” or “luggage.” In the 1800s a peterman was a thief who stole luggage out of vehicles, but by the 1900s the current meaning of peterman had taken over: a safe-cracker.

Huckster

A huckster is a traveling salesman specializing in small things. Hucksters may have gotten their name from the root of the verb haggle, as hucksters were known for their showy, even aggressive sale tactics. The similar profession of higgler, a huckster specializing in poultry and dairy, also gets its name from “haggle,” and the even more specific occupation eggler, or an egg dealer, is likely modeled after huckster or peddler.

Famulus

If you’re interested in sorcery, but just don’t have magic flowing through your blood, you might consider being a famulus. From the Latin word famulus meaning “servant, slave,” a famulus (plural famuli) is a servant or an attendant, especially of a scholar or a magician. This word entered English between 1830 and 1840.

Ocularist

Of all the words in this list, ocularist remains a valuable occupation to this day. An ocularist, a word and profession dating back to the mid-1800s, is an artificial eye-maker. It is not to be confused with the obsolete term oculist, an expert in eye diseases (today known as an ophthalmologist). Both ultimately derive from the Latin word oculus meaning “eye.”

Depilator

The technical term for this today is a “hair removal technician,” but depilator is more fun to say. A depilator is a person who removes hair, based on the Latin verb dēpilātus “to pluck, to deprive of hair.” The word entered English in the 1800s, but the English verb form, depilate “to remove hair” has been around since the mid-1500s, hair removal being no recent phenomenon.

Chandler

The word chandler may be known today as the name of one of the characters from Friends, but the word goes back to the late 1200s and represents a crucial occupation. Pre-electricity, candles were one of the most fundamental sources of light, and a chandler was a candle-maker. Chandlers stored their handiwork in chandeliers, where they did their candle-dealing. Brought into English via French, chandler derives from the Latin word candēla, “candle.”

Glazier

Glazier is at long last a profession that does not have Latinate origins. From the Old English glæs “glass” and the suffix -er “one who does” comes the term dating to the late 1300s, glazier, a person who fits windows with panes of glass.

Factotum

If you’re more of a jack-of-all-trades than a specialist in candles, glass eyes, fence repairs, or safe-cracking, perhaps being a factotum is the best fit for you. A factotum is a do-all, literally; the word comes from Latin fac meaning “do!” (imperative), and totum meaning “everything”. A factotum either serves as a handyman or servant around the house, or is an employee or official with many various professional responsibilities. If none of these career paths spark your interest, you could always consider becoming a lexicographer—a compiler of dictionaries.

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