Here and there around town this week, you will see office workers wearing blue buttons pinned to their garments. On the buttons there are cryptic markings that may appear to be Arabic (but only to those who are not familiar with Arabic).

The buttons were distributed by the Washington School for Secretaries because this is National Secretaries Week. The message, written in shorthand, says, "Secretaries Are Special People."

The statement is true enough, but doesn't begin to do justice to the subject.

As recently as in my own early days as a wage-earner, secretary was often little more than a fancy name for a stenographer. When the office steno became experienced enough to stall bill collectors and cover up for the sales manager when his wife called, she got a $3 raise and became known as a secretary.

Today it's the other way around. The title is more often understated than overblown. Many a so-called secretary is in fact an executive assistant. She is the person who really knows where everything is, how it works, who fixes it when it's broken and how to get along without it in the meantime. She knows when to protect her bosses from intrusion, when to roll out the red carpet for the intruder, and how to maintain a pleasant working relationship with six men who all hate each other and would love to protect her from the other five.

A male who becomes a man-of-all work under a high executive usually gets a high-sounding title to go with his role deputy, administrative assistant, executive assistant, or something equally impressive. A female who performs the same functions is more likely to retain the title "secretary." But don't let that fool you. Because of their ever-growing numbers and ever-growing responsibilities, females have taken over the business world.