A Straight Dope Classic from Cecil's Storehouse of Human Knowledge

What makes a man a "professional"?

February 11, 1994

Dear Cecil:

Since no one else will give me a straight answer I thought I'd ask you. Exactly what does the code word "professional" mean? It's used mostly by women in personal ads. The expensive dating services say they are for "professionals" but have no interest in defining the term. One told me, "Tell me what you do and I'll tell you if you are a professional." The old narrow meaning was a self-regulated occupation like doctors or lawyers but there is definitely something broader, amorphous, pretentious and possibly mean-spirited involved with the use of the word today.

Dear Dante:

Chin up, lad. The term is defined with precision in the National Labor Relations Act, specifically Title 29, Chapter 7, Subchapter II of the United States Code. "Professional employee" means "(a) any employee engaged in work (i) predominantly intellectual and varied in character as opposed to routine, mental, manual, mechanical, or physical work; (ii) involving the consistent exercise of discretion and judgment in its performance; (iii) of such a character that the output produced or the result accomplished cannot be standardized in relation to a given period of time; (iv) requiring knowledge of an advanced type in a field of science or learning customarily acquired ... in an institution of higher learning or a hospital, as distinguished from [the gutter]; or (b) [anyone who is training to become a professional]."

This is bound to improve your success with women. All you have to do is say, "The output I produce cannot be standardized in relation to a given period of time," and they'll be all over you faster than you can say "skiing vacation in the Gstaad."

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