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In one of Jeffery Archer's Prison Diary books (written ca. 2002) he asks a fellow inmate, a PhD student, whether he is "a digger or an academic".

What is the meaning of "digger" in this context? I see occasional use of the term "goal digger", an obvious play on "gold digger", presumably someone who just wants collect the credential versus one who intends to pursue a career in academia.

Would that be a correct guess as to the meaning?

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  • I can't be sure without more context (it would at least be useful to know what the PhD was in), but I'd be surprised if he meant "gold-digger". It's more likely he was differentiating between drudge-work (or physical labour) and intellectualism, maybe between the sort of PhD that's a mundane slog through data and the sort that's based on deep thinking.
    – Stuart F
    Jun 29 at 19:30
  • @StuartF Edited to add the subject- marine anthropology. Thanks. Jun 29 at 19:37
  • In this world, there's two kinds of people ... those with loaded programs, and those who dig. Jul 12 at 18:15
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It seems to refer to archeologists, anthropologists, etc that collate data coming from the field, as opposed to those actually gathering data in the field.

'Diggers' go out into the field with a small shovel, pick and various sized brushes to find new (fresh*) stuff, while 'academics' mostly sit in comfortable air-conditioned labs analyzing the data...

Diggers are on 'digs' most of the year, doing the dusty back-breaking excavations, while many academics go on digs only once a year, or when on sabbatical.

Although the cooperation between the 2 groups is essential for scientific reasons, there is often a certain rivalry and sometimes a mutual disdain; hence the "whether he is 'a digger or an academic'".


*fresh means right out of the ground, no matter its position in history.

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    Oh, that's very good. For some reason the more literal interpretation didn't occur to me- probably because it was "anthropology" and not "archaeology". Jun 29 at 19:41
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    Then there's the geophys department, allegedly despised by both (Maxwell's Grave, M J Trow) Jun 30 at 18:14
  • @EdwinAshworth OK...you have piqued my interest...
    – Cascabel
    Jul 10 at 2:12
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    The Maxwell series is well worth reading. The star is Metternich. Jul 10 at 12:35
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    (a or b) No, the more lethal Metternich. (b or a) Yes, written by M J Trow (see Wikipedia article). Detective / humorous/wry/dry / inventive. (c) IMO, very good (but I don't rate the 'Lestrade' series. Especially with Rupert Graves' as the archetypal rendition.) Jul 12 at 9:39

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