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The oldest profession

May 22, 2012

I’m reading Natalie Haynes’ The Ancient Guide to Modern Life to review it for the Indie on Sunday, and I notice that she uses the expression the oldest profession to refer to prostitution. I would be interested to know where this cliche comes from, and why it has gained such currency. I have never liked it – there’s something horribly smug and facetious about it – and apart from anything else it isn’t even accurate. I think it was Joan Smith who said that in reality the priesthood is probably the oldest profession. But it all depends on what you mean by a profession. If hunting is a profession, then surely that’s the oldest? 

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