If you thought that pretentious job titles were a modern phenomenon, the creation of HR department staff with too much time on their hands, think again.
Dr Alun Withey, a historian at the University of Exeter, has shown that the Victorians can take the credit for beginning the trend of creating outlandish titles.
For example, “a delineator of natatorial science” was a swimming instructor, a “couranteer” was a journalist, an “antigropelos maker” made waterproof trousers (always useful, given our climate), while a “tripocoptontic perruquier” conjured up washable wigs.
I have to say, though, that where the Victorians led, we have taken up the challenge of blithering idiocy with singular enthusiasm: “wet leisure assistant” – a lifeguard, apparently; “modality manager” – nurse; “co-ordinator of interpretive teaching” – museum tour guide; and a particularly choice one: “direct debit and membership and professional development stock and credit administrator” – customer services administrator.
However, some of these recent renderings are also to be treasured. Where would we be without a “media publications administrator”? That’s a paper boy or girl to you and me. Or an “antisocial behaviour co-ordinator”, as one police force once advertised for? (Whether this was to control or organise such behaviour is unclear.) Or “learning receptor units”? In academe, this is a ludicrous euphemism for students.
As for “conversation architect” and “dream alchemist”, which are probably positions in marketing, I think it would be wisest to pass swiftly on.
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