Ex Officio and Pro Forma

EX OFFICIO: as a result of one’s status or position

PRO FORMA: (adjective) done or produced as a matter of form, as pro forma reports, or (adverb) as a matter of form or politeness, as he nodded to him pro forma, or (noun) a standard document, form or financial statement

Despite how it looks, ex officio (or ex-officio) does not mean “out of office.” I mean, it does, but more precisely it’s understood to mean “proceeding out from the office,” just as deus ex machina is “god from the machine.” Since we all bandy about our ex-wives, ex-boyfriends, or ex-parrots, it’s understandable so many people think ex-officio is a synonym for OOO or a former office holder.

Not so. When I discovered this active clothing company, I assumed that’s why they chose this name—their wares were to wear “out of the office.” Their About Us page says otherwise. Although why an adventure-themed company would choose Ex Officio as its name vexes me so. Perhaps their marketing department would care to comment?

Ex officio refers to a post one holds by virtue of another post held by the same person. The reigning monarch of the United Kingdom is the ex officio head of the Church of England. The Vice President of the United States is ex officio the president of the Senate. There need not be anything “elite” about this, despite the company’s protestations. In many companies, the IT manager is the ex officio webmaster. (This is a terrible idea, by the way, and 100% of IT managers agree with me.)

Pro forma has taken on the perjorative connotation of “mindless CYA,” and that is more understandable, since the actual definition kisses that concept. Why, then, would you name your promotional merchandise company Pro Forma? I get it sounds like “performance,” I get it has “pro” in it. But you’re kinda sorta saying your customers are only giving away swag or employee recognition for no other reason than because it’s the done thing, not because you have an intense passion for cool branded merch.

Fortunately, I couldn’t come across any news or blog posts grossly misusing these terms. Just these sorta-kinda company names. Let’s keep it that way

Otto E. Mezzo