Bah Humble

First: Pulitzer Prize winner Kendrick Lamar is here with me today to help make my point. Welcome, Kendrick!

Now, I am pleased to announce a well-fed and beautifully groomed pet peeve of mine: when people upon whom a very clear honor is bestowed accept said honor by describing themselves as deeply humbled by that honor.

I…I think what you mean, person, is that you are honored by this honor. It is ok to be honored by an honor!

I’d like therefore to offer some clarity on what “humble” means and where it comes from.

Here’s the verb:

“To bring low”! Who is “brought low” by kind, positive attention? Or the acknowledgment of their abilities and efforts? Here’s the adj. it says to see:

So, yes, it comes from a BEING ON THE GROUND level of lowliness. Like “humiliate”! (Also: am I nuts or is this quite a typo: “claiming little as one’s desert”? Cause…when I am honored, you can keep the desert, I would like the eclairs yes all the eclairs thank you.)*

So it just always seems to me like people who say “I am so humbled by this” actually want to say “I want you to know I wasn’t, like expecting this, and/or let me assure you that I don’t think this fancy honor means I think am better than you.” Which isn’t a crazy thing to try and communicate, but a) show don’t tell, and b) this word does not mean that stuff.

Now I will pause to acknowledge the possibility that you reading this use “humble” in this way, and aren’t a dolt, and that you are doing something I have not considered, and if that is the case, will you please tell me all about it so I can release my pet peeve back into the wild where it will probably die as now it’s been domesticated and has long ago lost the instinct to hunt?

Pending such revision of my thinking, I will hold off on my plan, which is to start asking “oh gosh, are you ok? Can I help you up??” when people say this. I will proceed with ostentatiously modeling what I believe to be better word choices when I am offered the slightest recognition, so… hi, you, have I told you lately how very honored I am that you ever read what I write? I really am. It lifts me up. Thank you ❤️.



and because you’ve so honored me, I offer you this:

And that is not all. While I was checking that 1934 entry against Modernity, I found:

I MEAN. It was a word!! Did you know?! What a world we live in.


*UPDATE: tbqqqqh, it is not often that I don’t know what I don’t know in terms of language. I *know* what I don’t know and so I look it up and boom. But I didn’t know I didn’t know this! “Desert” here is like in “just deserts” which I can now recall dimly is spelled that way but which I have long since categorized as having to do with, you know, eclairs. But:

It’s to do with deserving!! Thanks so much to Carol Boyd for this.

4 thoughts on “Bah Humble

    1. I sure have! Are you saying that’s how you hear the statement “I’m so humbled by this award”… as equivalent to “this makes me feel like a fraud”?


  1. Yes. At that instant, you are faced with a choice among: “I am honored …”, acquiescing; “I am humbled …”, admittedly a confusing disclaimer; or a rambling attempt to explain the mix of others’ ideas, efforts and support – combined with lucky breaks and rolling with the flow of History. I have tried the last path. Rather than establish an accurate picture of the nature of the honored event, I just came across as “generous” – a “true leader”. The fraud – reinforced.

    I’ll stick with “humbled”.


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