I am not a professional writer. A keen hobbyist, no doubt, but I am far from a professional. What is the key metric at play here? The fact that writing does not provide my main revenue stream? In all honesty, writing has never even represented my second most lucrative revenue stream: that’s selling unwanted DVDs. I get far more money in dividend from my Co-op members card than I do from writing, and I spend all of that on gin. Writing brings in precisely no cash whatsoever.
Another quantifier of professionalism is the membership of professional organisations and having the associated professional qualifications. I’m a qualified and accredited Market Researcher – oh yes I am – but that does not give me any status as a writer of words. I can run you a series of repeated cross-sectional surveys, given a suitable sample frame. I have no proof of my calibre as a writer.
How about courtesy? If one is courteous with their customers, colleagues and superiors; if one acts with decorum, with valour, they are often described as being “professional”. I tend to view that as the lay version of professionalism, however. You’re acting like a professional would; you may not be.
What about professional e-Cigarettes, then? I saw an advert not so very long ago for some nicotine replacement products which described themselves as being a “PRO” vape device. My automatic read of this was that this meant professional, and that there must be some job, where you can work as an e-Cigarette smoker. That’s a pretty odd choice of a profession, I must say. How do you get paid to do it for eight hours a day? That’s some “Who you know” over “What you know” at play there. I reckon it would result in something of a cough, too. Nothing compared with the real thing, however.
Am I being deliberately obtuse? Probably. I know that you cannot get paid to vape, or all of the ne’er do well leisurewear sporters around here would be raking it in. It just seemed like an odd word to tag on to what is, at best, a leisure product. Are they just saying that what they make is very good?
The same applies to “Pronamel”: A contraction of professional and enamel, it is utter gibberish, put together purely to give the impression of a professional cleaning product, accessible to the home / supermarket crowd. “If professionals use it, it must be good” we tell ourselves, with no basis in fact.
The problem at play here is that companies know that we are more likely to buy what we trust, and that we are more likely to trust things that sound as if they have some kind of basis in credibility at some point in their existence. Hence the use of “pro” to indicate that these things may be the choice of professionals, if professional teeth brushers or vapers actually existed: not dismissing hygienists.
My worry, as is so often the case, is the hypocrisy at play here. “Pro” seems to indicate some kind of super delux option that someone with a string of advanced degrees would use in order to boost the health of their extensive list of private patients. You’d never have, for instance, pro plaster, or pro grout. No, they’re things you do with your hands: You’d have trade for that. And it comes in bulk.
This idea that things which are clean and delicate come under “pro”, while everything that is dirty and produces dust comes under “trade” is quite uncomfortable to me. It devalues the skill of the tradesman, while falsely raising the value of the professional. But only in our minds; our common perceptions of things have no weight at all. No, never. What then about “Studio”? Oh yeah, that.
“Studio” is another form of professional, but far less highfalutin. “Studio” conjures up images of multi-coloured havens of industry, staffed by multi-coloured purveyors of rainbow or unicorn hair; places where the dizzying smell of chemicals in the air is only matched by the dizzying quantity of sugar in the food consumed on the premises. Usually in the form of cakes and biscuits. Honestly.
“Studio” also has some other connotations, of artists in high-windowed and low-rent properties, to be entered through piles of leaves and decay. Artists with paint on their smocks, food in their hair, and a faraway look in their eyes: they know what they’re doing, but you wonder how on earth they manage to pay the bills, or feed the cats. There are always cats, and the sound of children playing.
These two versions of studio occupy the middle ground between “Pro” and “Trade”. They’re just as professional as the other two – they all are – but they’re more accessibly so. When some hair care product or other has “Studio” on it, you know it will be fine. If it has “Pro” on it, it’s slightly scary and exciting. If it has “Trade” on it, it may as well come in a crusty bucket with a copy of The Mirror.
And yet they are all lies. Some of the most professional people I have ever met are tradespeople. They’re distant, out of contact, so hidden behind walls of gevulot that they may not exist; but really, how far far from a Harley Street surgeon is that? And they charge about as much for a consultation. I can’t imagine a Harley Street surgeon propping up my back end with an Acrow prop, however.
I suppose where I am going with all of this is that we shouldn’t tell lies, just to sell our stuff, but that it is helpful to have some kind of classification to guide us through things. “Artisanal” for instance: we know instinctively that it will be over-priced, that it will be wonky in shape, and that you have a 50% chance of it being better than what you would buy in Sainsbury’s. But you will take the chance, especially if it’s a stocking filler for Granny. Artisan food and tat is the perennial middle class fad.
I just wish it were less class based, if I were being honest. I just wish it were less silly, if I were to pin my colours to the mast. I just wish it were less easy to manipulate the general public in to shedding our hard earned cash, if I were to get to the nub of the matter. But I’m not a professional writer.