Jobsworth: A person in authority, especially a minor official, who insists on adhering to rules or bureaucratic procedures, even at the expense of common sense. From the phrase “It’s more than my job’s worth.” Classified by the OED as “Brit. colloq. (depreciative).”
Jobsworth has the faintly musty ring of words like dogsbody (early 19th century naval slang) or podsnappery (invented by Charles Dickens in Our Mutual Friend, 1865). But in fact the compound form jobsworth is a relatively recent coinage, according to World Wide Words:
Jobsworth has been in use since the early 1970s, sometimes in the mock polite form Mr Jobsworth (jobsworths are usually presumed to be male). The BBC television programme That’s Life! popularised it in the early 1980s through its creation of the Jobsworth Award for obstructionism beyond the call of duty. Esther Rantzen, the show’s presenter, said that it was for “the stupidest rule and the official who stamps on the most toes to uphold it”.
The earliest citation in the OED is from a 1970 issue of Melody Maker: “If you are a taxi-driver, jobsworth or policeman, you will now be able to understand hippie lingo.”
Jobsworth was unknown to me until just last week, when I discovered, via a Dustbury post, an “apology” from BrewDog, Scotland’s largest independent brewery, to the Portman Group, which regulates the British alcohol trade. The Portman Group “had ruled that the label used to market Dead Pony Club bottles ‘encourages both anti-social behaviour and rapid drinking’,” according to an April 29 story in the International Business Times.
BrewDog Dead Pony Club Californian Pale Ale, “perfect for drinking by the bottle, case or even keg.” No clue about what makes it “Californian.”
The “apology”—titled #SorryNotSorry—was written by BrewDog co-founder James Watt and published on the brewery’s blog. Here’s the relevant passage, along with two preceding sentences for context:
On behalf of BrewDog PLC and its 14,691 individual shareholders, I would like to issue a formal apology to the Portman Group for not giving a shit about today’s ruling. Indeed, we are sorry for never giving a shit about anything the Portman Group has to say, and treating all of its statements with callous indifference and nonchalance.
Unfortunately, the Portman Group is a gloomy gaggle of killjoy jobsworths, funded by navel-gazing international drinks giants. Their raison d’être is to provide a diversion for the true evils of this industry, perpetrated by the gigantic faceless brands that pay their wages. Blinkered by this soulless mission, they treat beer drinkers like brain dead zombies and vilify creativity and competition. Therefore, we have never given a second thought to any of the grubby newspeak they disseminate periodically.
The statement concludes:
We sincerely hope that the sarcasm of this message fits the Portman Group criteria of responsible use of humour.
The Portman Group was neither amused nor moved. “The Code rules do not exist to prevent humorous or innovative brand marketing but to make sure that humour is used responsibly,” Portman CEO Henry Ashworth told the IBT. “We urge producers to exercise due diligence and consult our Code Advisory Team if they are in any doubt.”
It is of course a coincidence that Mr. Ashworth’s surname is just one syllable removed from jobsworth. Still, as a Fark commenter put it, “It’s possible that Henry Ashworth has never actually had any fun in his entire life.”