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Definition

“Ombudsman”

The word “Ombudsman” is Swedish and means “representative.” It is not gender specific, although many universities are using the terms, “ombuds,” or “ombudsperson,” in an effort to make the word gender neutral. The modern use of the term began in 1809, when the Swedish government created the office, although the idea for the office goes back as far as the Ottoman Empire in the 18th century. The ombudsman is an “official appointed to safeguard citizens’ rights by investigating complaints of injustice made against the government or its employees” (Philip’s Millennium Encyclopedia). Sweden and several other European countries appointed a relatively senior and respected official who would have access to all levels of government, from the prime minister, through the heads of ministries, to directors of lower-level administrative agencies, and could cut through red tape and work out resolutions of problems relatively expeditiously. Since the 1950s, many states, universities, and businesses have created ombudsman offices. (John C. Keene, University Ombudsman, University of Pennsylvania, Almanac - April 1, 2008, Volume 54, No. 27).


New Google Tool Shows Dominance of ‘Ombudsman’ Over Variants


Frequency of ‘Ombudsman,’ ‘Ombudsperson,’ and ‘Ombuds’ in books scanned by Google.


Google's latest tool, the Ngram Viewer, offers a way to explore data from every book that Google has scanned. The Ngram Viewer plots the frequency of user-specified terms over any time period from 1800 to the present. The results for ‘Ombudsman,’ ‘Ombudsperson,’ and ‘Ombuds’ show that the original version of the term is used most frequently and increasingly so. (Other variants, such as ‘Ombud,’ ‘Ombudswoman,’ and ‘Ombuddy’ barely register in the data.) These results seem to contradict other researchers who have concluded that ‘Ombudsman’ is falling out of favor. (Google Ngram Viewer.) December 29, 2010.

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