What’s an ichthyologist?


(Alla Dreyviter/The Washington Post)
October 4, 2013

Most workers have job titles that make sense even if you don’t know exactly what the person does. An electrician keeps the power flowing through your home. A baker helps make birthday parties a success. A painter saves the day if your little brother draws all over the living room walls with a permanent marker.

But what about an ichthyologist (ik-thee-AH-lo-gist)? What does that person do? From the name itself, you might imagine that an ichthyologist studies things that are icky. In reality, ichthyology is the scientific study of fish.

Today’s column contains a list of jobs and hobbies that have odd-sounding names. Some of these words have clues to their meaning, but only for people who know old languages such as Latin and Greek. That’s because modern words have “roots” from the past. For example, the suffix “ologist” refers to someone who studies a field of knowledge. It comes from a Greek word that means to speak.

Because the school year is just getting started, let’s turn the tables on your parents. Instead of reading this article with your mom or dad, quiz them to see how many names they’re familiar with. After all, who says kids are the only ones who should be learning stuff?

Entomologist: an expert in the scientific study of insects.

Philatelist: a stamp collector.

Equestrian: a rider or performer on horseback.

Milliner: someone who makes or sells women’s hats.

Bibliophile: a book lover and collector.

Hepatologist: a doctor who specializes in liver problems.

Farrier: an expert in the care of horses’ hooves, including shoeing them.

Cooper: a barrelmaker.

Meteorologist: an expert who studies and predicts the weather.

Haberdasher: someone who sells men’s clothes.

Confectioner: someone who makes or sells candy and other sweets.

Genealogist: an expert in tracing the ancestors in your family tree (history).

Gaffer: an electrician on a film crew who’s in charge of lighting.

Cobbler: a shoe repairman.

Birder: someone who enjoys watching birds in their natural habitats. (A scientist who studies birds is called an ornithologist.)

Audiophile: someone who listens to music on high-quality sound systems.

Anglophile: Someone who is enchanted with anything related to England.

Cartographer: a mapmaker.

Apothecary: someone who makes or sells medicine (also known as a pharmacist).

Lexicographer: someone who writes and edits dictionaries.

Vexillologist: someone who studies and collects information about flags.

Cosmetologist: someone who works in a salon to make a person’s face, skin and hair more beautiful.

Cosmologist: A scientist who studies the universe.

Linguist: an expert in the scientific study of language.

Archivist: someone who maintains and manages archives (documents of historic importance).

Hydrologist: someone who studies the supply, movement and quality of water on Earth and other planets.

Etymologist: someone who studies the origins of words and how their meanings have changed throughout history.

If a family member suggests that you become a gastroenterologist, you might want to think twice before you say yes. A gastroenterologist is a doctor who specializes in the intestinal tract and all its “icky” ailments.

—Howard J. Bennett

Bennett is a Washington pediatrician. His Web site, www.howardjbennett.com, includes past KidsPost articles and other cool stuff.

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