Within the fields of medicine and sociology, the descriptor “profession” (along with its brethren: profession, professionalization, and professionalism) has had a rich etymological history, with terms taking on different meanings at different times—sometimes trespassing into shibboleth and jargon. This etymological journey has co-evolved with the career of David Mechanic to whom this issue of the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law is devoted. We exploit a provocative metaphor applied to Mechanic's work on the challenges facing medicine as a profession as a playful exegesis on what we call “profession” to excavate an ensconced and encrusted domain of health jargon operating at the tensive interface of society and modern medical work.

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