World's second oldest profession

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The English idiom world's second-oldest profession is used to refer to a number of professions, playing on the common comment that prostitution is the world's oldest profession. One frequent use of the phrase is to refer to spies and spying.[1][2] An explanation of this phrase is that it must be the second-oldest profession because it is mentioned in the Book of Joshua.

"Joshua son of Nun sent two spies out from Shittim secretly with orders to reconnoitre the country. The two men came to Jericho and went to the house of a prostitute named Rahab..."

Paul Reynolds, a writer with the BBC, noted: "Rahab, of course, was engaged in the oldest profession."

Ronald Reagan nominated politician as the second-oldest profession with the alleged quip, "Someone once said that politics is the second-oldest profession. I'm beginning to think it bears resemblance to the first."[3]

According to the World Almanac website, nominations for the second-oldest profession include: actors, casino gambling, con men, Gangsters, counterfeiting, gigolos, glassmaking, interpreters, journalism, moving companies, pharmacists, pickpocketing, pimpery, piracy, press agents, prostitutes, spying, and quackery.[4] Humorist Erma Bombeck titled one of her books Motherhood: The Second Oldest Profession, since presumably many prostitutes (the "oldest profession") got pregnant.[5]

Other writers write about other professions as the world's second-oldest profession without stating why they should be considered the second-oldest profession.[6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Paul Reynolds (2004-02-26). "The world's second oldest profession". BBC News. Retrieved 2008-09-22.
  2. ^ Phillip Knightley (1986). The Second Oldest Profession. Spies and Spying in the Twentieth Century. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-02386-9.
  3. ^ Jan Hanska (2012). Reagan’s Mythical America: Storytelling as Political Leadership. Palgrave Macmillan.
  4. ^ Steinitz, Andrew (November 30, 2007). "The Second Oldest Profession?". World Almanac. Retrieved 6 February 2014.
  5. ^ "Motherhood". Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  6. ^ Eric Banks (2004-08-13). "RITUALS; World's Second-Oldest Profession". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-09-22.
  7. ^ Burt Prelutsky (2008-02-01). "The World's Second-Oldest Profession". townhall. Retrieved 2008-09-22.
  8. ^ Kathleen M. Leonard. "Brief History of Environmental Engineering: "The World's Second Oldest Profession"". American Society of Civil Engineers. Retrieved 2008-09-22.
  9. ^ "The World's Oldest Profession". Mister Poll. Retrieved 2008-09-22.
  10. ^ Stan Lepeak. "The World's Second Oldest Profession". Retrieved 2008-09-22.
  11. ^ Katherine Griffiths (2002-09-17). "Hard times for some prompt comeback for once disreputable pawnbrokers". The Independent. Retrieved 2008-09-22.
  12. ^ Yeoh Siew Hoon (2006-05-24). "What's a prom queen doing in the world's second oldest profession?". Retrieved 2008-09-22.
  13. ^ "More on the World's Second Oldest Profession". 2007-01-31. Retrieved 2008-09-22.
  14. ^ Greg McNeilly (2008-07-03). "The World's 2nd Oldest Profession". AOL. Retrieved 2008-09-22.
  15. ^ John Burnett. "Cooling U.S. Market Sends Tomb Raiders Abroad". National Public Radio. Retrieved 2008-09-22.