James A. Landau
JJJRLandau at AOL.COM
Wed Mar 7 00:58:55 UTC 2001
In a message dated 03/06/2001 7:30:41 PM Eastern Standard Time,
markodegard at HOTMAIL.COM writes:
> We're talking about job-title inflation.
> Garbagemen are now waste disposal engineers or sanitary technicians.
> Morticians became funeral directors; now, they are grief counselors. A
> certain kind of librarian used to be called a custodian, but when janitors
> took over that title, they became archivists. Kitchen workers are now
> food service technicians.
This is a common complaint, given in more detail in Mencken's _The American
Language_ (pages 347f of the 1963 McDavid abridged edition. The index has a
typo, giving "348" as "438"). It is possible that Mencken was the originator
of the list you give.
According to Mencken page 348 "in this [Dept. of Labor] list a sanitary
engineer appears, not as a plumber but as 'a civil engineer who designs and
supervises the construction and operation of sewers, sewage disposal plants,
garbage disposal plants, ventilation tunnels, and other sanitary facilities'
and such savants as the termite engineer, the social engineer and the human
engineer are non est.' " However, Mencken is somewhat out of date. "Social
engineering" and "human engineering" are recognized terms nowadays, although
as something other than euphemistic terms for low-status jobs.
Incidentally, Thomas Crapper who was the topic of discussion on this list
recently used the title "sanitary engineer" but as a designer of plumbing he
was qualified under the Mencken quote above.
- Jim Landau
P.S. A man I met in the late 1970's told me (facetiously, I am sure) that he
was a "garbage engineer". This anti-euphemistic title did not discourage a
forensic chemist of his acquaintance from blind-dating him with a chemical
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