It is a funny word, in many respects; for, it presumes and assumes what may not actually be the case. The word, “Ostensibly”, is used to describe that which is apparently so, or purportedly assumed, but may not actually be so.
Thus, one might say of an individual who is wearing clothes appearing to suggest that he or she works in a blue-collar job, and perhaps wears a tool-belt which suggests and confirms him/her to be such, that “he is ostensibly a carpenter”. How does the adverb qualify the noun? Because we don’t actually know, do we?
By his appearance and the fact that the individual carries around a tool belt which contains, perhaps, a saw, a hammer, a nail gun and other pertinent and revealing instruments indicating what a carpenter would require, we make an assumption that he is “ostensibly” a carpenter.
Now, it would be strange if you were to ask the individual what his profession was, and he confirmed that yes, he was a carpenter, then to state to a friend later on that “Joe is ostensibly a carpenter”, because if you have confirmed that the person “Joe” in reality is a carpenter and there is no longer an assumption, then to apply the word “ostensibly” would be rather odd — unless, of course, you thought that he was lying and that he only wore the tool belt to fool you, or was a half-wit who was engaging in “make believe” that he was a carpenter, etc.
In other contexts, the term “ostensibly” often applies, as well — as when the U.S. Office of Personnel Management denies a Federal Disability Retirement case and makes a multitude of arguments which, in the end, implies that you are merely “ostensibly” disabled (although they will never use the word itself).
For, what OPM is saying in a Federal Disability Retirement case under FERS in denying the Federal employee’s application for Federal or Postal Disability Retirement benefits, is that while you may allege to be disabled or unable to perform one or more of the essential elements of your job, you are actually not disabled.
If that happens, you will need to contact a disability attorney who specializes in Federal Disability Retirement Law; for, you will need more than an attorney who “ostensibly” does Federal Disability Retirement Law — rather, one who is, in reality and in fact, an attorney who specializes in it.
Robert R. McGill
Lawyer exclusively representing Federal and Postal employees to secure their Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.