Created By: Les on August 29, 2012 Last Edited By: Les on September 5, 2012

Humble Title, Higher Purpose

A person in a position of respect which has a humble name.

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Trope
Who is that? They stride in with an air of confidence and competence, all bow and show respect as they pass, they must be someone of great importance and power. Something needs doing obviously, and this person has obviously been summoned to do something Brilliant.

"Oh him? He is The Janitor!"

No, not That Janitor, although he may have inherited his position from one. This individual is someone who holds a position of great power and respect but said position bears a name which the viewer is expected to see as humble or mundane, often as the result of the original meaning of the term being either lost to History or lost in Translation. Perhaps they inherited the title After the End when during the Apocalypse the skills from a mundane profession became suddenly in-demand, or they introduced themselves by their profession to others who don't know what that profession is and they got the wrong idea.

May overlap with The Guild.

Examples:

  • In Xenozoic Tales Jack Tenhrec is a well-respected wilderness guide, adventurer, and go-to-guy for any major problems up to and including Dinosaur Stampedes. Jack Tenhrec is a Mechanic.

  • In Ben10, an organization of interplanetary police are called Plumbers.

  • The Doctor starts bringing this upon himself by introducing himself to everyone he meets while gallivanting about all of Time and Space as The Doctor and then going and doing pretty-much Everything you wouldn't expect a Doctor to do.

  • Desert Punk: The titular character is a mercenary of some renown, he and most of his associates in the same profession are members of the Handyman Guild.
Community Feedback Replies: 26
  • August 29, 2012
    MorganWick
    • Name: A person in a humble position is in fact really powerful if not God.
    • Description, laconic: A person in a not-so-humble position has a humble title.
    • Examples: A person in a not-so-humble or even merely extraordinary position has the title of an ordinary occupation.

    Yeah, this needs fixing.

    Real Life (though only fitting the description and laconic): I believe it was Augustus Caesar who gave himself the title "princeps", or "first citizen".
  • August 29, 2012
    Les
    I chose the name as a juxtaposition of Almighty Janitor.

    In the trope Almighty Janitor someone in a humble position has power one wouldn't expect from it.

    In this trope the title of a humble position is used to describe a not-at-all humble one.

    Needs more refinement I know, hopefully this'll get it.

  • August 29, 2012
    StarSword
    Yeah, the name needs work.

    In other news, I have another example.

    • In The Laundry Series, protagonist Bob Howard's job title is secretary to Angleton, director of the Laundry's Counter-Possession Unit. As he explains in The Atrocity Archive, however, in this case "secretary" is closest to its old meaning of "keeper of the secrets". Bob is a fully qualified Laundry field agent and a very skilled computational demonologist.
  • August 29, 2012
    Les
    I would think that the fact that a Men In Black style organization is called 'The Laundry' would itself be in-keeping with this trope.

    Might need further tweaking to include organizations to that are badass despite having ordinary-sounding names/titles.
  • August 29, 2012
    Karalora
    In Discworld, the Dwarf term usually translated as "king" really means something more akin to "senior engineer."
  • August 29, 2012
    McKathlin
    I don't think Janitor Almighty is a good title for this. It sounds like a redirect to Almighty Janitor. Everythings Worse With Snowclones. Until we come up with a better name, I'll throw out the suggestion of First Citizen, since at least, it's a well-known example of the trope. (But since There Is No Such Thing As Notability, we could use a title that's even clearer than this.)
  • August 29, 2012
    Tiiba
  • August 29, 2012
    JonnyB
    Would the janitor in The Breakfast Club count?

    Or the cleaning lady in Johnny Dangerously?
  • August 29, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous
  • August 29, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    So just a janitor as a job?
  • August 29, 2012
    Les
    Just The First Citizen ..interesting, a person in an important position or with an important occupation, who insists they be called by a humble title.

    This trope tries to be about people with high positions and/or important jobs which have high-sounding titles in the context of their setting, but which too the audience sounds humble/mundane.
  • August 29, 2012
    Les
    Yes, the name sucks, I know. Further links to Everythings Worse With Snowclones will simply be ignored for the wasteful trolling that they are, we get it, unless you have a better name in mind you're not helping.

    Jonny B, no.. those are examples of Almighty Janitor

    No Dragon Quest Z, just no.

    Keep in mind this is up for grabs, if you have better ideas on how to sharpen this trope, feel free.

    Now, let's see if this helps a bit.

    Almighty Janitor : Someone who has an exceptional level of power or skill, but has a humble position with a humble title.

    "Nobody expected the Janitor to have three black-belts in Venusian Akido."

    Just The First Citizen : Someone who has an exceptional level of power or skill with a position to match, but insists on using a title that is humble in that context.

    "He was the most feared bounty-hunter in the galaxy, no-one knew why he insisted on being called The Janitor."

    This Trope (Tentative title, Janitor Almight): Someone who has an exceptional level of power or skill with a position to match and a title worthy of that position in the context of the work, but which to the reader the title appears humble or mundane.

    "Only the most deadly and fearsome assassins earn the right to call themselves, a Janitor."
  • August 29, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous
    "Wasteful trolling"?
  • August 30, 2012
    Les
    What else would you call pointing out and complaining about an issue that's already been acknowledged and assistance with same had been requested while at the same time offering nothing constructive?

    Or did you just not bother reading Any of the other replies and go in thinking you alone had noticed the snowclone issue?
  • August 30, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous
    That is very defensive. There is only one other comment (McKathlin's) that criticizes the name. And it can be meaningful for more than one person to say the same thing. Please consider it "I agree that this is a bad name" rather than "wasteful trolling".

    If sufficiently bad, even "tentative" titles might dissuade potentially helpful people from spending time on the draft; recommend changing it. Suggestion: anything but that.
  • August 30, 2012
    GreatHylianKing
    Averted in an episode of Soul Eater, where a kid named Hiro (hero) is revealed to be the school punching bag.
  • August 31, 2012
    Les
    Changed it to 'I Am, The Janitor'.. that's really the best I can do.
  • August 31, 2012
    HonestGent
    I think we should avoid Janitor in the title in general. It becomes too easy to confuse with Almighty Janitor. Humble Title Higher Purpose? Non Indicative Title?
  • August 31, 2012
    HonestGent
    ^I did not realise Non Indicative Title was a trope. So we can go ahead and ignore that name suggestion. Possibly a related trope? But yeah. Ignore that little mistake.
  • September 3, 2012
    Freud
    Suggestion for an example: Dilbert character "The World's Smartest Garbage man," who is respected by all of the other characters.
  • September 3, 2012
    Les
    used Honest Gent's suggestion for the name..

    @Freud: That's more an example of Almighty Janitor
  • September 3, 2012
    Xtifr
    • Played with in Vorkosigan Saga: the title of "Count" turns out to be derived from the word "accountant", and has no relation to the historical Earth title, so Barrayar is, technically, ruled by accountants. Feudal, hereditary, weapon-bearing accountants with castles whose children are addressed as "Lord So-and-so".
  • September 3, 2012
    ProfessorThascales
    Possibly an example: In Doctor Who, "Frontios," the soldier/guards are called Orderlies. (It's been suggested that came from the colony ship originally being a hospital ship.)
  • September 4, 2012
    Les
    Professor Thascales, that is essentially the essence of this trope.
  • September 5, 2012
    aurora369
    The Soviet leader's title, General Secretary, originally meant a clerk recording Party meetings, a pretty unassuming office. However, it was made into the glorious leader's title by Stalin.
  • September 5, 2012
    randomsurfer
    In Isaac Asimov's Foundation series, the leader of the Foundation, the next Galactic Empire, is called simply The Mayor because that was the title of the first bureaucratic leader of the Foundation. Also the Second Foundation's leader is called the First Speaker, since his only official position is to speak first at meetings; although in practice he's much more than that.
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