Ombuds

Further to the post on gender-neutral language, Johnson at the Economist links to a Washington State statute removing all traces of masculinity from its legislation.

But the Washington overhaul has pressed into service some awkward coinages. “Fishermen” will now be “fishers”, a word I can recall only ever having seen in the Bible (“Come and I will make you fishers of men”), and even then only to avoid the awkward “fishermen of men”. An “ombudsman” will now be an “ombuds”. “Ombudsmand”, a Scandinavian word, has the etymological meaning a “man who is asked for something”, ie, help or redress. Washington has shorn the title down to a meaningless “ask-for”.

Substitute Senate Bill 5077 (PDF) is 475 pages long and you can see crossed out all the amended terms.

It appears that the term ombuds instead of ombudsman is already in use outside Washington State, often in the term ombuds office at a university. I wonder whether it is singular or plural. Wiktionary says it is an abbreviation of ombudsman and is singular, and offers the anagram dumbo.

A commenter on the Johnson piece says that ombud is a perfectly good Scandinavian term. LATER NOTE: but I’m told that it is a good Scandinavian term with a different meaning!

LATER NOTE: It appears that the term ombud was introduced in Norway as a neutral form of ombudsman – see comments.

1 thought on “Ombuds

  1. I remember that the late Kjersti Graver (Norwegian consumer activist, then “forbrukerombud”, then judge) took pride in having changed the job title for the Norwegian consumer ombud(sman) from forbrukerombudsmann to simply forbrukerombud (in the 1980ies). More on her in [url=http://blog.lehofer.at/2010/02/barbie-und-der-fernseh-binnenmarkt-in.html]this blogpost[/url] (in German)

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