The Menagerie of Lesser-Known Experts

expert: “An ‘expert,’ judging not by dictionary definitions but by common usage, is a young man who is hired by a newspaper to make prophecies which are never fulfilled and to express opinions which are ultimately proved to have been all wrong.”

It's hard to flip through a newspaper without seeing the assembled attitudes of the world's many experts (defined by Urban Dictionary as "someone with a blog or a dude with an opinion"). Each reporter has their go-to legal expert, their reliable election expert, their immigration and education experts, who can be called upon when a story gets just too chewy to tackle alone. A cursory examination of today's print editions reveals the opinions of environmental and health experts, climate experts, medical experts, earthquake expertsand Matthew McConaughey (expert-in-training). The sheer magnitude of experts referenced regularly seems to hint at a bit of expert inflation (we blame millennials), but sometimes an expert quoted in an article is knowledgeable in a field so abstract or weird that we might just be able to believe they are in fact the sole evangelizing quotation machine of their speciality. Here is a by no means complete appreciation and compendium of those experts. 


amusement-ride accidents: “Additional ads for the same company, strategically placed a few pages apart, advertise its stock of experts on ‘slip and fall accidents,’ ‘stairway fall cases,’ and ‘amusement ride accidents.’”

ancient winemaking: “Patrick McGovern of the University of Pennsylvania, an expert in ancient winemaking, said the discovery 'sheds important new light' on the development of winemaking in ancient Canaan, from which it later spread to Egypt and across the Mediterranean.”

the art of folding: "I'm an expert in the art of folding," he quips. 'Seriously, most people have way too much stuff in their closets—and their homes. There's no reason to keep a raincoat hanging 365 days of the year when you live in Southern California—really. Just leave out things you really wear and love, and stash the rest away.'"

the art of tying ascots: “Things were touch and go along the Philadelphia Main Line the other afternoon when, half an hour before a fashionable wedding was to take place at a country estate, the groom discovered that neither he nor any of his attendants knew how to tie the ascots they were supposed to wear for the ceremony. The crisis was resolved by one of the ushers, who excused himself for a moment, went off, and came back with a young cousin, a ten-year-old girl who has ridden in many a horse show and who, standing on a chair, fixed them all up in a jiffy.”

ayahuasca: “One ayahuasca expert estimates that, on any given night, 50 to 100 ayahuasca groups are in session in New York City alone.”


bacon: "'Within the story, we wanted to make sure there was enough about bacon,' said Mr. Bacon, who added that his last name 'hasn't hurt' his career in the pork department. "It's definitely a conversation starter."

baroque dance: “Catherine Turocy, a Baroque dance expert whose workshop I attended in Manhattan last year, says she instructs her dancers to react to any events or sudden loud noises in the room — it’s an integral part of historical practice.”


car-seat installation: “Men, of course, do not give birth, but they have their own shadow form of labor: installing the baby’s car seat. This seemingly simple job has ruined plenty of golfing Saturdays, even for guys who solved Rubik’s Cube when they were younger. Thankfully, in Manhattan there’s an expert for everything, and if you’re expecting a son and have no idea how to get him home from the hospital, you can call Alisa Baer, the Car Seat Lady.”

The New Yorker

cat behavior: "'Without a successful capture,' says Pam Johnson-Bennett, an expert on cat behavior, 'I believe the play session keeps the cat too revved up instead of allowing for a satisfying winding down of the action.'"

charcoal grilling: “Although charcoal grilling is the most primitive form of cooking, for Gen. Harold A. Bartron it is a matter of consummate interest. It is a vocation, hobby and modus vivendi that he pursues tirelessly four seasons a year, fair weather and foul. To many, he is considered the world’s leading authority on the subject.”

chickens: “Over at the Poultry Show in the Capitol Hotel last week we got to trailing along back of a Vassarish young lady and a harried young man with her. This girl knew more about poultry than we thought anybody in the world knew, and she probably knew just as much about trigonometry, rationing, and economic determinism.”

chili peppers: “Festivals abound, often featuring chili pepper-eating contests. 'It’s fun,' as one chili pepper expert wrote, 'sorta like a night out to watch someone being burned at the stake.'”

clams: “'Clams,' said ex-Game and Fish Commissioner Eugene G. Blackford yesterday, 'are like the poor—we have them always with us.'”

cork: “He has hired glass experts, label experts, glue experts and cork experts to examine the wines in his own cellar.”

corn mazes: “The king of the American corn maze industry is Brett Herbst, who runs an elaborate maze in Lehi, Utah. But he makes most of his money helping other people build corn mazes.”


dead bodies: As he later told Deborah Denno, a professor at Fordham law school, he 'was an expert in dead bodies but not an expert in getting them that way.'” 

the detection of forgery by typewriter: “Martin K. Tytell, examiner of disputed documents, is an expert in the detection of forgery by typewriter—a moderately common but thoroughly stupid method of trying to plump one’s purse with another man’s gold.”

difficult conversations: “Sheila Heen, an expert in negotiation and difficult conversations, is answering reader questions about how to resolve disputes within families and in other parts of life.”

duty taxes, cheese imports, international sales doctrine, NAFTA and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency: “In an interview with The Times he said he has spent countless hours poring over commerce laws, meeting with business attorneys and becoming  something of an expert in the likes of duty taxes, cheese imports, international sales doctrine, NAFTA and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. 'I'm going to defend myself,' Hallatt said, adding that he believes the lawsuit is frivolous.”


early American flags: “'Balderdash,' says Dave Martucci, an early American flag expert and past president of the North American Vexillological Association. 'This is not a stars-and-stripes flag,' says Mr. Martucci, a 59-year-old tax assessor and flag appraiser from Washington, Maine. Stars were 'in the future.'"

elephant behavior: “Enter Lucas Malugu, a young expert in elephant behavior and psychology at the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute who came up with the chili concoction after researching elephant repellents.”

elevators: "The elevator consultant George Strakosch, in the preface to The Vertical Transportation Handbook, the industry bible, refers to it as the 'obscure mystery.' To take elevatoring lightly is to risk dooming a building to dysfunction and its inhabitants to a kind of incremental purgatory."

experts (1): “It is the somewhat gratifying lesson of Philip Tetlock’s new book, Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know? (Princeton; $35), that people who make prediction their business—people who appear as experts on television, get quoted in newspaper articles, advise governments and businesses, and participate in punditry roundtables—are no better than the rest of us. “


The New York Times

experts (2): A reporter for The Poughkeepsie Journal needed to learn about people who keep crickets as pets. An Associated Press writer had about four hours to find an ethnomusicologist knowledgeable about relationships between black and Jewish jazz musicians. A journalist with Radio Canada wanted an agricultural expert in the United States who could speak about the environmental problems posed by pig manure—in French. A few years ago, a well-stocked Rolodex and hours on the telephone would have been needed to find such authorities in arcana, if they could be found at all. But these reporters succeeded with only one call to Profnet, a computer network of university public information officers.


florist: “William Raden Dead. Was an Expert Florist and the discoverer of a ‘microbe killer.’”

the folklore of tacos: “'People have been putting food inside tortillas and eating them for centuries, but the first tacos to be called tacos were probably eaten by 18th-century laborers working in the silver mines of Mexico,' said José R. Ralat, an expert on the folklore of tacos, and the associate editor of the western-themed magazine Cowboys & Indians.”

The New York Times

4/20: “The persistence of alternate theories is a downer for Steve Hager, editor emeritus of High Times magazine, who considers himself an expert on the holiday's roots. After hosting 420-themed events—such as ceremonies at the Cannabis Cup convention in Amsterdam at 4:20 p.m.—Mr. Hager was contacted by a man named Steve Capper who claimed to have been one of the founders of the 420 tradition in the 1970s with a group of high-school buddies in California, known as the Waldos.”


goggles: “'Here’s what people do: they cut it and they go like this,' the goggles expert said, bending his head back and looking up. 'They go, ‘Oooh.’ They watch their work. And that tree hits the ground and the thing bounces back and it smashes them in the chest and it kills them.' He began jogging away from the base of the pole. 'At ten feet, go ahead and take a peek back,' he said. 'You’re going to want to watch it. But keep going, man. Don’t stick around. You’ll die.'


land vertebrates: “To cope with a noisy problem, Hawaii calls on Keevin Minami, a specialist with an unusual talent: He speaks coqui.”

lip reading: Larry Wenig, a lip-reading expert, tells Inside Edition that his analysis shows the Ohio Republican asked President Obama if he had a cigarette before the Monday luncheon.


Mafia: In a 2004 column on his website, then called 'This Week in Gang Land,' Jerry Capeci, an expert on the Mafia, compared Mr. Rizzuto to Mr. Gotti, the longtime head of the Gambino crime family in New York, who died in 2002.“Like Gotti in his heyday, Rizzuto is known as a flashy dresser who was tough to convict.”

magic: “It was just a typical magicians’ lunch at the Dixie Hotel. While many of the magicians who meet there each weekday are members of the Society of American Magicians, a group formed sixty years ago, many unaffiliated tricksters also attend when in town. And scores of magicians are in town this week, having come from Atlantic City, where the International Brotherhood of Magicians convened last week.”

making BLTs: “Botti said he had tried to get the burly Brits and Americans interested in his Tuscan bean soup, but has ended up becoming an expert in making BLTs. ‘They never try our spaghetti and clams, and insist on adding spicy sausage and even chicken to our pasta carbonara,’ he said.”

manhole-cover removal: "Mr. Gates developed an expertise on things most people would miss, or not care to pay attention to: He can tell you about a woman named Brooklyn who claims to have lived in a tunnel beneath Riverside Park for decades, and which murals are new in that tunnel, and which manhole covers are easiest to remove.”

maze: "Indeed, mazes, which evolved from single-path labyrinths, first appeared around 1500, when they were incorporated into Renaissance gardens in Italy, says maze expert Adrian Fisher, author of The Art of the Maze."

the mechanics of online publishing” (excluding women): “Books are a major category on Bustle. 'Men, to the best of my knowledge, don’t even read,' Goldberg said. 'When’s the last time you heard a man say, ‘I’ve been reading this great book, you’d really like it’? My girlfriend always tells me about these books she’s reading, and I don’t even see her reading the book! Where does this book live?'”

mushroom foraging: “Not only do these giant mushrooms exist, says Ari Rockland Miller, a Vermont based mushroom foraging expert, they are edible, even delectable, early in their lifecycle, when their flesh is white and has the consistency of Styrofoam.”


noise (1): “Dr. Anton S. Koros, a noise expert with the Lockheed Engineering and Science Company in Houston, reported that noise aboard spacecraft robbed astronauts of sleep, made it harder for them to concentrate or relax, and caused temporary hearing loss.”

noise (2): “It's part of the whole environmental movement,'' said John Wesler, a noise expert with Wyle Laboratories, a consulting firm. ''People's expectations have changed.”

noise (3): But a more comprehensive approach is needed, said Arline L. Bronzaft, a noise expert who has served on the city's Council on the Environment for three mayoral administrations. … ''There should be a coordinating office,'' Dr. Bronzaft said. ''People have talked about a noise czar.''

noise (4): “Theodore J. Mellard, a noise expert and corporate consultant who also uses the sound meter to monitor factory noise levels, ranks New York and Chicago as the noisiest cities in the nation and, with Hong Kong and Tokyo, the noisiest in the world.”

North American trout: "They're nutty people," says ichthyologist Robert Behnke, a retired Colorado State University professor and expert on North American trout who calls the bug advocates "obstructionists."

nothing: “That red hat he wears makes him an expert in nothing. When E. F. Hutton talks, people listen. When Curtis Sliwa talks, morons listen."


odor perception: “The following week, I met Avery Gilbert, an expert in odor perception and the author of What the Nose Knows: The Science of Scent in Everyday Life, on Broome with a similar plan in mind. He directed my attention to a gutter with a sock floating in it and diagnosed standing water as the area’s first problem. “It’s a bacterial broth,” he said. “There’s a nice oily sheen to this one. Smells like rotten vegetables.” The air was a mesh of flies. At 284 Broome, the warehouse was doing a slow Saturday business, and as we approached the building, Gilbert replicated Burr’s body language. “Ay-yi-yi,” he said. “Wow. Oh, boy. Oh, boy.”

osmology: “Scentovision, a blend of motion pictures and appropriate odors, was patented this week. The mechanism picks up signals from the unrolling film, releasing the perfume of orange blossoms to accompany an orange grove scene and that of sliced ham for a delicatessen. The inventor is Hans Laube, a Swiss. His associates refer to him as an expert in osmology, the science of odors.”


pallets: The website, headed by LLC, claims to promote "straight talk about wood pallets," saying they are "laden with bacteria," "contribute to global warming," and "fuel powerful fires that shatter lives."

paper planes: “But a man who helped write the Guinness rules, Andy Chipling, thinks surrogate throwers are a good precedent. True paper-plane geeks will be able to see their engineering bolstered by brute strength, says Mr. Chipling, a U.K.-based expert in what he calls ‘paper aircraft.’”

The New Yorker

pole: "I need the glitter, the hairdo, and most of all, dancing," said Renee Richardson, 30, a Budapest burlesque performer and pole expert who said she does shed garments in some venues. "The sport's nice but my heart beats for the glamour."


sauerkraut: "The test results, which indicated that it was significantly more powerful than the Red Savina, made their way to Paul Bosland, a professor of horticulture and former sauerkraut expert who, for the past twenty-two years, has run the Chile Pepper Institute, at New Mexico State University." 

scapels and sabers: "Dr. Tibor Nyilas, a debonair New Yorker who, by his own description, is a middle-aged man with 'aggressive” tendencies,' was saying the other day that it’s too bad this town as so few legal outlets for middle-aged men with aggressive tendencies.”

scents: “Pamela Dalton, of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, remotely coordinated the odor-gathering effort at Tri-State as part of a program funded by the Department of Defense. 'Volunteers collected samples of the air,' she explains. 'I don’t think I’ve ever smelled anything more disturbing in my entire life.' Dalton works on olfactory strategies to treat (or preempt) post-traumatic stress disorder, her goal being to hinder the associative power of common war-zone odorants by inuring soldiers to them. Diesel fuel is one of the smells that can send a veteran around the bend. The same goes for cordite. And the smell of death, of course, is a reliable trigger.”

seniors in Oregon: “Wyden was Morse’s expert on issues important to seniors in Oregon, and he later set up the Oregon chapter of the Gray Panthers, an organization that fought for seniors’ rights. One of the earliest national newspaper stories about Wyden, which ran in the Times on January 7, 1979, described a victory that elderly Oregonians won in the state legislature, where a Wyden-backed plan to allow non-dentists to fit and sell dentures was approved. 'I think the measure really shows that senior citizens have bulging political biceps,' Wyden told the Times.”

the sensory attributes of snack food: "The sound of Cheetos, even a billion mouthfuls, is not particularly loud. There's a high degree of mouth-melt. It's almost like eating air."

sharks and crocodiles: "'I never thought I'd work for the hamster, but the job came up,' says Julien Hoffman, a 29-year-old shark and crocodile expert, tending to a year-old female. 'This is not about making money, it's about saving the species,' he says. What do crocs and hamsters have in common? 'Well, a crocodile would eat a hamster, but otherwise, nothing.'"

Siberian Railway postage: “But to win a top prize at the world stamp-collecting championship in London in May, Mr. Hadida has to stick it to two formidable competitors: a collector of Icelandic naval-mail stamps and an expert on Siberian Railway postage. Letters sent from the North Pole or remote whaling stations are particularly in vogue at the moment.”

The New York Times

skyscraper height: “Early next month the nonprofit Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat—the accepted arbiter on matters of skyscraper height—is set to determine One World Trade Center's official "architectural" height.

sleight-of-hand: “Teller—of the performing duo Penn and Teller—says magical libraries have previously been 'impenetrable' but the center's online database helped him find in 30 seconds a reference book he had been unable to track down over decades. 'It took my breath away,' he says. He wouldn't reveal what he was seeking. Ricky Jay, a sleight-of-hand expert, says he appreciates the translator Mr. Kalush employs, which opens up secrets from magicians all over the world.”

slime-mold and fungus-feeding beetles: “Dr. Wheeler, whose doctorate is in entomology, has tried to convince others of the allure. In 2005, he and a colleague named three new species of beetle after President George W. Bush and two members of his administration: Agathidium bushiA. cheneyi and A. rumsfeldi. To Dr. Wheeler's surprise, President Bush called him. 'He said he was honored,' recalls Dr. Wheeler, who has also named beetles after Roy Orbison, the late singer-songwriter, and Stephen Colbert, of Comedy Central fame.”

snow: “A self-described ‘weather freak,’ he says he analyzed roughly 1,000 pages of past weather data for the Sochi mountain district and even interviewed one of his drivers' grandmothers, a lifelong resident, about past winters. He also took notice of the prediction by a Russian scientist at the Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory of a coming ice age, conveniently forecast to start in early 2014. Having a feel for snow is important, too. For him, ‘snow—it's an emotional connection, it's a love story,’ Mr. Martikainen says. Snow is his ‘second love’ after his wife of more than 30 years. He says: ‘It's my life.’”

the social life of telephone society: “There was this one guy who was phoning his girl friend in Chicago who became infuriated when he heard the voice of a male operator on the phone,” said the press agent. “The male operator merely cut in to tell the guy he was talking overtime. But the guy thought the male operator was in the girl’s apartment.”

Soviet prison-camp slang: “The job went to Michael Scammell, a British translator and editor, who is an expert in Soviet prison-camp slang.”

squirrels: “John L. Koprowski is a professor at the University of Arizona. I found him via Wikipedia, where he is identified as a 'leading expert on the ecology and conservation of squirrels.' And my confidence in his expertise was assured when I discovered that his email address included the word 'squirrel.' 'Pretty amazing critters,' he wrote to me from China.”

stupidity: “James F. Welles wrote two books on stupidity. Police say he may want to include a new chapter on himself.”

subway: “His 14-year-old son, Robert, who is a subway expert. The boy knows, for instance, the location of those rare subway cars where straphangers may still swing from leather—not metal—loops (Myrtle Avenue elevated in Brooklyn and Queens.)

survival in the wilderness: “An Army veteran who is an expert in survival in the wilderness, Mr. Horning had evoked comparisons to the movie character Rambo. Mr. Horning is also wanted for questioning about a killing in California in 1990 in which a robbery victim was dismembered."


taking testimony from people who've survived "direct personal close encounters" with aliens: “The city panel would promote 'harmonious, peaceful, mutually respectful and beneficial coexistence' between earthlings and extraterrestrials, in part by developing protocols for 'diplomatic contact.' Its seven members would include an expert in taking testimony from people who've survived 'direct personal close encounters' with aliens.”

tavern: “I turned to Fritz Hahn, tavern expert for The Post’s Going Out Guide and a man well-acquainted with the dives of NoVa, D.C. and elsewhere. I asked what rules should be used to define a dive bar. I started out with some suggestions: 1) No kids. 2) Decent jukebox. 3) Inedible food.”

thirteen: “America's leading expert on 13 may be Tom Fernsler, a 59-year-old math teacher at the University of Delaware. He became interested in the topic in 1987 when he noticed that there were three Friday the 13ths in that year, something that he later found happens about once every 11 years.”

tree: “Congressman Davey, Tree Expert, Says New Plan Will Doom Trees”

turtle: U.S. Marines are taught to overcome obstacles with a minimum of help. But when some Marines prepared to charge a hill in a training exercise here a few months ago, they were forced to halt and radio the one man who could help them advance: Brian Henen, turtle expert.


um and uh: “A study by researchers at Max-Planck-Institut für Psycholinguistik concluded that the universal word is huh. ‘Interesting,’ said an expert in um and uh.”


virtual currency: “Scott Dueweke, a virtual-currency expert at consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton Inc., includes a Dark Wallet video made by Mr. Wilson when he explains bitcoin to regulators and law-enforcement officials. Mr. Wilson's video features ominous music and an image of Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency contractor turned leaker. "It spooked the hell out of them," Mr. Dueweke says.”


wood carving: “She had previously studied sculpture and painting and worked on restoring an organ in Florence's Pitti Palace before apprenticing at the Smithsonian Institution, under conservator Scott Odell, and at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, under instrument expert Stewart Pollens. Soon after Mr. Fiuzzi's enterprise opened its doors, Ms. Conti, an expert in wood carving and inlay, and then Ms. Mingazzini, who specializes in tuning, joined the team.”

You may also like