September 08, 2008

Magazine Explains "Vaguely Named" Ombuds Profession

Mental Floss magazine ("Where Knowledge Junkies Get Their Fix") exposed the most vaguely named and/or unknown professions in our American capitalist system: Surveyor; Orderly; Surgeon General; Best Boy; Baby Wrangler; City Controller; Riverkeeper; and Ombudsman.
This has to be one of the more ominous sounding job titles out there – possibly because it starts with the same two letters as “ominous,” but also because if you need an ombudsman, it probably means some dank, smelly excrement has hit the fan. Whenever you’ve got a potentially explosive and litigious conflict between two entities, these guys are called in to be the middlemen, the mediators, and the last stop on the train to Lawsuit City. They attempt to resolve conflicts between private citizens and the government, disgruntled students and their university, or between an employee and his or her soul-sucking employer. Fired unfairly? Expelled without due process? Denied federal benefits? Tell it to the ombudsman.

Many news organizations (mental_floss excluded) appoint ombudsmen to handle reader complaints. We’ll put this on a list, along with “airline counter employee” and “DMV clerk,” of Jobs for Masochists Only.

Umm ... thanks? (mental_floss.)


  1. John Zinsser9/09/2008 8:39 AM

    While mostly just funny I do think this piece offers a couple of important snipets of information we should look at carefully:

    OMBUDSMAN sounds ominous. We have all joked about the difficulty people have pronouncing it (Just yesterday I was on the Phone with a corporate CEO on America's 100 richest list and it got so bad with him trying to say it we both ended up laughing about it). But does anyone else remember the Society for Professionals in Dispute Resolution? I was in the room when the name change to ACR was being debated and one of the presenters cited Arachniphobia as a reason for changing the name.

    More importantly and broadly, while we may have a shinning image of good service for ourselves, most see us as part of a dirty road to a dirty place. Yesterday I rolled my garbage cans out late and the truck was there. I watch the fellows load it. I was thankful for them and their work, but I DID NOT want to be around it or promote it. Crossover to us? I wonder.

    A job for masochists only....think we should each wonder about that a that really the nature of the job? a false perception amomg those who do not "know" the job? Or something we find a way to support with what we do and do not say about our work.

    Just wondering out loud....


  2. Yeah. The name may be the biggest burden on the profession.