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If a riddler riddles...
September 8, 2005 4:21 AM   Subscribe

Help me solve a riddle! A baker bakes, a painter paints, a teacher teaches...

...is there any pair of occupation words like this in which the word for the action ends in "-er" and the word for the person performing it doesn't?

I remember reading this question on a Usenet puzzles or wordgames group many moons ago, before the web really existed, and it's one of those things that has stuck with me since reading it, but I have never figured out the answer.
posted by Robot Johnny to Writing & Language (94 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Headmaster?
posted by lazywhinerkid at 4:22 AM on September 8, 2005


a cobbler mends shoes.
posted by altolinguistic at 4:22 AM on September 8, 2005


Oh dammit -- wrong way 'round.
posted by lazywhinerkid at 4:23 AM on September 8, 2005


i'm not quite sure if this is what you mean, but how about "nurse".

A nurse nurses
posted by poppo at 4:24 AM on September 8, 2005


Butcher? They don't "butch"...

I'm sure that there's others, but I can't think of them from the top of my head...
posted by Chunder at 4:27 AM on September 8, 2005


If I'm understanding the question correctly, the occupation can not end in "er", just the action. The performer has to end in something other than "er".

Now, is that right?
posted by qwip at 4:34 AM on September 8, 2005


Cobbler and butcher don't match the criteria -- they both end in "er".

And nurse doesn't match either, as the name and occupation are the same word.

Again, the action being performed must end in "er" and the person performing it must not. And apart from the "er" ending, they must be the same word, more or less.
posted by Robot Johnny at 4:34 AM on September 8, 2005


None of the answers are right, if I understand the question correctly.

Headmaster and cobbler end in -er, so they're automatically wrong. A nurse does not nurser. A butcher does not butch. The person (the occupation) does not end with -er. The action they perform, however, does. Like delivery person > deliver, except that doesn't work, because, according to his rule, the two words have to be exactly the same except for the ending.

Like sweep > sweeper, sort of. A sweep sweeps, but is also a sweeper. Almost fits, but not really.
posted by iconomy at 4:36 AM on September 8, 2005


Or, what he said.
posted by iconomy at 4:36 AM on September 8, 2005


An administrator could be said to administer.
posted by misteraitch at 4:40 AM on September 8, 2005


I think the problem here is one of tense. I can't think of a single verb that ends in -er, particularly in the 3rd person singular, which is the tense we are looking for to be parallel to the "baker bakes, teacher teaches" formation.
posted by Rock Steady at 4:40 AM on September 8, 2005


iconomy's on the right track... deliver is a great example of a verb ending in "er", and sweep is great example of an occupation that doesn't.... now if only they fit together. A sweep delivers!

Rock Steady -- that's why it's a riddle!
posted by Robot Johnny at 4:42 AM on September 8, 2005


a murderer murders but that doesn't work because the occupation ends in -er, but I'm getting there in my mind.
posted by Pollomacho at 4:46 AM on September 8, 2005


a salesman barters, closer, still working on it.
posted by Pollomacho at 4:53 AM on September 8, 2005


well it's not an occupation but i'll throw this in as a close example:

A pest pesters
posted by poppo at 5:00 AM on September 8, 2005


A helmsman steers.
posted by misteraitch at 5:02 AM on September 8, 2005


A minister ministers, an engineer engineers, a caterer caters, a mother mothers, a father fathers, but that's only half way to an answer. Oh hey, a mom mothers, a dad fathers, a priest ministers... Do those count?
posted by teg at 5:02 AM on September 8, 2005


Priests, pastors, deacons, bishops and other clergy (none of which end in -ers) all minister.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:05 AM on September 8, 2005


The root word has to be the same. Like poppo's answer - that's a perfect example.

Think more like

a bard barders
a thief thiefers
a pilot piloters

Yes, none of them make sense, just showing how it works. This is fun. I hope someone comes up with the answer before I get a headache.
posted by iconomy at 5:08 AM on September 8, 2005


A doctor doctors. Damn, nearly!
posted by blacksky at 5:18 AM on September 8, 2005


Well, a doc doctors!
posted by Robot Johnny at 5:19 AM on September 8, 2005


A pimp panders.
posted by taz at 5:25 AM on September 8, 2005


A jiggerman jiggers. (I've been looking at a list of archaic occupations.)
posted by teg at 5:26 AM on September 8, 2005


ah... I didn't see that the root word has to be the same!
posted by taz at 5:26 AM on September 8, 2005


Poppo's answer is definitely the best so far. And since I'm remembering the question entirely from memory, it's possible that the answer isn't necessarily an occupation, but just a subject/verb pair like pest/pester... In any event, I'm curious if there are still other examples out there.
posted by Robot Johnny at 5:38 AM on September 8, 2005


A wimp whimpers.
posted by springload at 5:41 AM on September 8, 2005


a coward cowers
posted by Pollomacho at 5:44 AM on September 8, 2005


Perl to the rescue.

Here
's the result of putting every word, and same word that ends in er, together in a sentence, from a rather extensive dictionary.

It seems like Poppo's is the only one that make the most sense (a pest pesters), unless there's some obscure language I'm missing.

Although, some of my other favorites:
A cow cowers. (when it's scared)
A moth mothers. (when she lays eggs)
A pond ponders. (why am I here? why am I so wet?)
A splint splinters. (if it breaks)
...
posted by jozxyqk at 5:57 AM on September 8, 2005


A pond ponders. (why am I here? why am I so wet?)

Hee. Poppo's answer isn't an actual occupation, so I don't think the question's been answered yet? I have the feeling that if there even really is an answer, it's an obsolete or archaic occupation.
posted by iconomy at 6:04 AM on September 8, 2005


Also not an answer, but I guess a slob slobbers, though that adds the additonal trouble of a double consonant
posted by poppo at 6:05 AM on September 8, 2005


A coward cowers
posted by lunkfish at 6:07 AM on September 8, 2005


Maybe the person is one of those words that ends in -stress or -trist or -trix or something?
posted by box at 6:12 AM on September 8, 2005


Actually, I withdraw slob slobbers, since a slob doesn't have to slobber to be one.
posted by poppo at 6:16 AM on September 8, 2005


This reminds me of the WaPo's Style Invitational, wherein a public invitation is made to accomplish some obscure (and invariably hilarious) wordplay, and the end result is usually further proof that everyone on teh Intarweb is wittier than me.

But I digress.

I concur that poppo's just about the closest, even with the brilliant Perl efforts of jozxyqk, and I'm wondering if we might be better served attempting to define "Pest" as an occupation? Someone in the political arena, perhaps?

I'm just sayin'.

"Cow cowers." Milk came out my nose. No, I'm serious, it did.
posted by ZakDaddy at 6:20 AM on September 8, 2005


Does a Private Privateer?
posted by bDiddy at 6:22 AM on September 8, 2005


A commander could comandeer - but they'd usually command
posted by lunkfish at 6:23 AM on September 8, 2005


Does a Private Privateer?


That's actually not bad. A private could privateer, though private is usually not a naval rank (is it?).
posted by poppo at 6:28 AM on September 8, 2005


Hey butler, stop butling yourself.
posted by scratch at 6:31 AM on September 8, 2005


Poppo's answer isn't an actual occupation, so I don't think the question's been answered yet

Well, I did add that I could very well be mistaken about the answer having to be an occupation. jozxyqk's mad Perl skillz have made it clear that there aren't many (legitimate) answers, occupation or not (at least none that aren't archaic).
posted by Robot Johnny at 6:36 AM on September 8, 2005


A Count counters.
posted by plinth at 6:57 AM on September 8, 2005


A smith creates smithery. That means he smithers, right?
posted by springload at 7:08 AM on September 8, 2005


I think the smith smiths
posted by poppo at 7:19 AM on September 8, 2005


A butt butters.
posted by jozxyqk at 7:20 AM on September 8, 2005


An electrician repairs electronics.
posted by shepd at 7:22 AM on September 8, 2005


An electrician repairs electronics.

Okay, now you're not even trying.
posted by Robot Johnny at 7:24 AM on September 8, 2005


A seamstress alters.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:29 AM on September 8, 2005


Hmm. Maybe the occupation is one that ends in -erman, as with fisherman or cornerman? Suddenly I'm reminded of an old AskMe question about job titles in heist movies.

(Yes, I am hoping that someone else will do the heavy lifting.)
posted by box at 7:31 AM on September 8, 2005


a deli delivers
posted by blueyellow at 7:31 AM on September 8, 2005


Oh, wait. That's wrong.

A conqueror conquers.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:33 AM on September 8, 2005


A cook cooks.
A shepheard herds.
A librarian... um... shelves books?
A mechanic fixes cars.
A politician bullshits.

Running dry here...
posted by gaby at 7:41 AM on September 8, 2005


I'm beginning to think some of you aren't even reading the question.
posted by Robot Johnny at 7:42 AM on September 8, 2005


Here's another one that comes close:
An engine engineers.

But an engine isn't a person.
posted by jozxyqk at 7:44 AM on September 8, 2005


A cobbler certainly does cobble (see meaning 2).
posted by bonehead at 7:51 AM on September 8, 2005


A laundry launders, but that's not a person.
Matt matters, but that's not his job.
A prefect prefers, but again...
A reference refers, and if that reference is a person...
The Registrar registers.
A slaughterman slaughters, but that shouldn't count..
A twit twitters?
A wimp whimpers?

And yes, I did just work my way through an alphabetical list of verbs.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:02 AM on September 8, 2005


Here are more results, from a much larger dictionary (with the repeats from the first file removed):
er_sentences_more

I haven't looked through this list yet for any gems :)
posted by jozxyqk at 8:09 AM on September 8, 2005


a mailman delivers
posted by mfbridges at 8:16 AM on September 8, 2005


A laundry launders, but that's not a person.

No, but a laundress is! A laundress launders! Occupation not ending in -er, action ending in -er, there you go, though registrar registers fits the bill pretty well too.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:16 AM on September 8, 2005


Widower.
posted by Mo Nickels at 8:17 AM on September 8, 2005


Wait, that's wrong, too. Damn.
posted by Mo Nickels at 8:17 AM on September 8, 2005


a bug buggers
posted by blueyellow at 8:40 AM on September 8, 2005


a pander panders
posted by blueyellow at 8:54 AM on September 8, 2005


A soldier soldiers, but a sailor sails. Oh, well.
posted by alumshubby at 9:11 AM on September 8, 2005


A plumber plumbs?
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 9:12 AM on September 8, 2005


A dick dickers.
posted by mosch at 9:12 AM on September 8, 2005


a blab blabbers
posted by blueyellow at 9:27 AM on September 8, 2005


A ref refers?
posted by 23skidoo at 9:28 AM on September 8, 2005


Guys. The pattern is An XYZ XYZers.

A cobbler cobbles. No.
A dick dickers. Yes.
A plumber plumbs. No.
A plumber plumberers. Yes.

A librarian... um... shelves books? No.
A mechanic fixes cars. No.
A politician bullshits. For God's sake.

Think of verbs ending in -er. Work backwards from there.

A stick stickers.
A corn corners.
A palave palavers.

(Those fit the pattern but are non-sensical.)

To sum up the good answers so far:

A pest pesters.
A slob slobbers.
A blab blabbers.

posted by Khalad at 9:41 AM on September 8, 2005


A luthier makes guitars.
posted by Decani at 9:57 AM on September 8, 2005


A twit twitters?
posted by Goblindegook at 9:57 AM on September 8, 2005


Whoops, I'm sorry. I totally misread your question. Carry on.
posted by Decani at 9:58 AM on September 8, 2005


A deliveratron delivers.

Why does the root word have to be the same? I don't see that qualification anywhere in the question - it's only implied by the choice of examples, which could be misleading.
posted by Caviar at 9:59 AM on September 8, 2005


Oh, nevermind, someone already said it.
posted by Goblindegook at 10:00 AM on September 8, 2005


Caviar wrote: Why does the root word have to be the same? I don't see thatqualification anywhere in the question - it's only implied by thechoice of examples, which could be misleading.

Yeah, I was thinking the same. In that case, the delivery guy delivers would be correct.

I wonder if we're all missing an obvious answer . . .
posted by Goblindegook at 10:03 AM on September 8, 2005


Well, no - because it has to be a word pair, and delivery guy is two words by itself. But I'm guessing it's something like that.
posted by Caviar at 10:08 AM on September 8, 2005


Suddenly I'm reminded of an old AskMe question about job titles in heist movies.

(Yes, I am hoping that someone else will do the heavy lifting.)


What the heck is a "Grease-man"?

Not of much use to this thread, unfortunately.
posted by jewishbuddha at 10:14 AM on September 8, 2005


A glim glimmers. A shim shimmers. A twit twitters. A flit flitters. A chit chitters.
posted by lorrer at 10:18 AM on September 8, 2005


Why does the root word have to be the same?
Yeah, I was thinking the same.

It wasn't clear when I first posted the question, but I clarified myself here. So yes, the words have to be IDENTICAL, except that the verb has "er" on the end. Some of these suggestions are ridiculously off course.

"ref refers" is pretty good, except that a ref doesn't refer; other people refer to a ref. I think pest/pester is still the best answer.
posted by Robot Johnny at 10:26 AM on September 8, 2005


A wainwright hammers. An assassin murders. A postman delivers. A bosun hollers.

I know this isn't exactly what you're looking for, but that just means that your question is too restrictive in its terms. :>).
posted by BigLankyBastard at 10:32 AM on September 8, 2005


A slob slobbers.
A blab blabbers.


Both bother.
posted by springload at 10:33 AM on September 8, 2005


This 1994 usenet thread agrees with "pest pesters" as the best answer.
posted by SpookyFish at 10:54 AM on September 8, 2005


An SOB sobers.
posted by Goblindegook at 10:55 AM on September 8, 2005


I know this isn't exactly what you're looking for, but that just means that your question is too restrictive in its terms.

Too restrictive? That was sort of the point. If I had asked, "please give me some random verbs," then this thread would have turned out perfectly.

Both bother.

Nice!
posted by Robot Johnny at 10:58 AM on September 8, 2005


This 1994 usenet thread agrees with "pest pesters" as the best answer.

Beautiful! That might very well have been the Usenet thread in the question. I love Metafilter.
posted by Robot Johnny at 11:00 AM on September 8, 2005


Since I have clearly won, please send me the free iPod and 42" plasma link
posted by poppo at 11:07 AM on September 8, 2005


A scamp scampers.
Not great, but decent.
posted by Khalad at 12:14 PM on September 8, 2005


An artist renders?
posted by maryh at 1:08 PM on September 8, 2005


Oops, missed khalad. Nevermind.
posted by maryh at 1:12 PM on September 8, 2005


I think gaby was on to something with 'cook,' for if a cook is not a cooker, than what is he/she?
posted by greatgefilte at 5:25 PM on September 8, 2005


for if a cook is not a cooker, than what is he/she?

Yes, but a cook doesn't cooker. See Khalads post above.


I was really hoping there was an answer that was an actual occupation, much like a baker, or butcher. Pest is accurate, but just leaves me kinda hanging.
posted by qwip at 5:50 PM on September 8, 2005


A malingerer malingers.
posted by rob511 at 6:51 PM on September 8, 2005


Can a cant canter?

Cant - One who uses religious phrases unreally.

1725 New Cant. Dict., Cant, an Hypocrite, a Dissembler, a double-tongu'd, whining Person. 1824 MRS. CAMERON Pink Tippet III. 16 Lest she should be called a cant. 1873 E. BERDOC Adv. Protestant 132 He was not a cant, but really felt what he said.

Canter - To chant, to intone.

1538 STARKEY England I. iv. (1871) 137 Thynke, yf Saynt Augustyn, Jerome, or Ambrose herd our curyouse dyscantyng and canteryng in churchys, what they wold say.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 6:52 PM on September 8, 2005


Upthread, there is laundry and launder, but nobody noticed that a launderer launders. Launderers do launder, right?
posted by cgc373 at 6:04 AM on April 4, 2006


Oh, wait. Launds don't launder, though. Right. Okay.
posted by cgc373 at 6:13 AM on April 4, 2006


This is a bit sneaky, but...

A steersmen steers.
posted by Serial Killer Slumber Party at 6:48 AM on July 17, 2006


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