Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/471

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RANK AND TITLE.

engineer by virtue of diploma and experience, he should be allowed the simple justice of remaining such. But, if one of these anomalous beings should presume to sign himself "U. S. Civil Engineer," which his natural and most graphic description, he is guilty of a technical falsehood, as the War Department, by recognizing such a grade as that, and then leaving it practically empty, there being but two United States civil engineers on the rolls, has debarred from its use the many other civil engineers who are equally entitled to that distinction.

There are engineers and engineers—civil, mechanical, sanitary, geographical, hydraulic, steam, locomotive, fire-department, and dozens more. For a man to say that he is an engineer conveys but a vague idea of his business. To say that he is an assistant engineer adds humiliation to vagueness. To continue, that he is an assistant United States engineer, working under the Engineer Corps of the army, would probably place him, in the popular comprehension, as an assistant to one of the soldiers of the engineer battalion. At any rate, it is not a distinction in which the American civil engineer can take great pride. To show its worthlessness for purposes of classification and description, which is the principal use of titles, we have but to say that in the pay-rolls of the Engineer Department, as published in the "United States Official Register," we find "Engineer, $60 per month," and "Assistant Engineer, $250 per month"; the former, we infer, being a steam-engineer, and the latter, it is to be presumed, a civil engineer. The civil engineers of America are not a haughty class, but still they do not wish to pass into official history in such a shape as that,

Words are principally useful for the conveyance of ideas, and when they convey no idea, or, at best, an erroneous one, they fail of their mission. A man's title is in some sense the measure of the respect which the world gives him, and justice to himself and a due regard for the world's convenience demand that it should be expressed in words that will plainly describe his occupation. In private life this is so, and when a man is called an oculist, a photographer, or a grocer, we immediately know his place and importance as a member of society. When a barber dubs himself a "tonsorial artist," and when the Government, with its red tape, assembles lawyer, physician, and statistician under the omnium gatherum title of "clerk," it is an offense against good English language. Since the true worker is always an enthusiast in his profession, and resents being classified under any other head, it is equally an injury to himself. How, for instance, can the lawyer of the Interior Department or the financier of the Treasury go home to his friends and describe himself as a fourth-class clerk without feeling the blush of shame upon his brow?

It was left to the Coast Survey to invent the ingeniously menial designation of "acting sub-assistant," and it is difficult to see how any man, loaded down with the ignominy of such a name, could ever do good work or rise to better things. Whatever may be the duties of