There’s art to that sandwich, apparently…

IT’S funny what you discover while sitting on a ledge and working freelance/looking for a new job.

For instance, did you know that the people who assemble your food in Subway are known as “sandwich artists”? I spotted this on a list of jobs that pops daily into my inbox. Subway is so proud of this phrase that it has even trademarked it.

Now I don’t know why this one ended up with me. Perhaps the filtering system doesn’t work. I don’t have anything against sandwich artists, but neither do I wish to be one. Actually I do have something against them: that ridiculous name. How does it work – do they use baguettes for paintbrushes, dipping the end in tomato sauce and then daubing wall or canvas? Well, who knows, not me for certain.

In truth this is just another fancy tag for a mundane job. I imagine the boss who dreamed that one up is paid a lot more than the people who put the fillings into the sandwiches. But at least the sandwich makers aren’t called creative layering executives or anything.

If you assemble sandwiches, why not just be called a sandwich-maker? Perhaps ‘artist’ makes the job sound more creative than it really is and gives the worker a boost.

An online search produces the definition mentioned above followed by a further clarification: “A person who, in real terms, is unskilled and can’t see it, despite thinking they have a ‘talent’. The person often makes inappropriate, obtuse or simplistic comments, to everyone else’s amusement.”

Now that definition strikes me as snooty and unkind. The version I found online also contained a few spelling mistakes. I edited these in my role as a words artist (shuffles them about a bit, polishes when required, nonsense humanely destroyed and so on).

Definitions that assert one person’s superiority over another are unpleasant and unnecessary. Yet we shouldn’t forget that a label such as ‘sandwich artist’ will not have been coined by the person doing the job. They just have to pretend to enjoy being a sandwich artist, as doing low-paid jobs with a smile and a song in your heart seems to be what is expected nowadays, especially where young people are concerned.

I did discover another definition. This one slumps sleazily against the wall opposite Subway, flashing its eyes. A sandwich artist under these terms is “a person who is masterful at arranging threesomes or other group sex scenarios”. Well I suppose there is a degree of layering involved there too.

I assume this doesn’t go on in Subway shops. Never been in one myself, although I have glanced through the window while passing by on the food-snob side of the street. I wouldn’t have said there was enough room for a threesome in those places.

Because a sandwich involves one thing pressed up against another, many slang meanings tend to the salty. ‘Sandwich brushing’ is a term of sexual endearment, although I should add an ‘apparently’ in there somewhere. For all I know people could just be making this stuff up on the internet.

Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable does not, I hope, make things up, but the wordy bible hasn’t moved with the times on such matters. The main entry on this topic concerns the 4th Earl of Sandwich, the “notorious ‘Jemmy Twitcher’. He passed whole days in gambling, bidding the waiter to bring him for refreshment a slice of cold beef between two pieces of bread, which he ate without stopping play”. I have heard this story disparaged, but it’s a serviceable tale, and the ‘Jemmy Twitcher’ part was new to me.

Below this entry Brewer’s also defines ‘sandwich man’ as: “A perambulating advertisement displayer, ‘sandwiched’ between a pair of advertisement boards carried before him and behind.”

You still see people shuffling along as the human meat in an advertorial sandwich, although this role has been overtaken by one just as demeaning: standing by the road and looking miserable while holding pizza placards.

Well, all this typing is making me hungry. Perhaps it is time to go into the kitchen for a spot of sandwich artistry. No, please – the bread kind. Our kitchen is very small.


  1. Nice piece of word artistry, Julian. Hopefully sandwich artists at least won’t be replaced by com
    puters any time soon…

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