January 18, 2009

A new word to hate

I've just come to the realisation that I hate, hate, HATE the verb "humble", particularly as used in the passive voice and referring to oneself, though with a number of related variants. I hate it because the word in that context has become utterly meaningless; it is now the word that anyone recently nominated or elected or selected for a position feels that they are expected to use: "I am humbled by this appointment." And yet it is quite clear, at least in most of these cases, that they are nothing of the sort. They feel great! They're thrilled! And they should be, most of them, as the appointment in question is usually an achievement that is the result and recognition of talent and hard work.

You can see where it came from, I guess: a sense of, wow, those people wield a great deal of power over this major decision point in my life—I better not let my head get too big. And the early users of phrasing like "I am honored and humbled..." probably even meant it. Some current users might even still mean it. But the word, the phrasing, has become so bleached of meaning, so formulaic, and it has been used by so many people who haven't a humble bone in their bodies, that it now connotes almost the opposite: wow, I have such little regard for y'all that I'm giving you a form-letter for my acceptance speech.

So I hate it.

"The Book of Revelation reads like it was translated from Aramaic to Greek by someone who spoke neither." --Jack Collins

Posted by blahedo at 5:19pm on 18 Jan 2009
I certainly understand your distain for the verb "humble" as applied in your text. Over the last couple of years I would include the noun "hero." I think we have overuse or misused this word so much that it has lost its true meaning. As I make my comment I just realized this is an old post, so perhaps no one will ever see it. However, I feel better for saying it. Thank you! Posted by Blake at 9:31pm on 10 Jan 2021
Sorry, I didn't realize I had to answer the question above to post. I think I answered it correctly this time. Posted by Blake at 9:34pm on 10 Jan 2021
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