Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Eating Humble Pie

I've banged on before, here and here and here, about how I hate the new habit of expressing appreciation for an honour by explaining how 'humbled'  you feel. However, this morning, having heard the Queen thank her nation for her Jubilee celebrations by telling them that she feels 'humbled', I realise that I must admit complete defeat.

The Macquarie dictionary defines 'humble' as meaning 'low in station, grade or importance,'  or 'modest, meek, without pride' and the verb as meaning 'to lower in condition, importance or dignity; abase' or 'to make meek'. I suppose it is the second meaning that the Queen is using the word in (she can hardly mean 'low in station' can she?) I still think it's a mad approach.

When countless people have spent millions to amaze you, dazzle you and show you a riproaring (if rather rainsodden) good time, I imagine they'd be hoping that you would respond with excitement, joy, delight and rapture. To tell them you feel modest at the end of it all seems to me to rather put a dampener on things.

But it appears that 'humbled' is the 'appropriate' response to such things these days, indicating that not for one minute does anyone delude themselves that they are better than anyone else or feel an instant of that dreadful thing called pride (a pinch might be allowed if you were a survivor of Gallipoli, but only a tiny pinch even then). And we would never want to be anything other than 'appropriate'.

5 comments:

  1. Yes it wasn't too surprising when Kevin Rudd said during his challenge to Gillard in February that he was 'humbled' to have Anthony Albanese's backing, but it's disappointing to hear usually sensible people like HM and John Howard use the awful cliche. As far as I can fathom it's shorthand for saying 'gosh I appreciate all your praise and kindness... how can I possibly live up to the inflated view you have of my qualities?'

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    1. It's odd how people who have genuinely achieved something have to ensure the populace don't think they've got tickets on themselves and yet simultaneously more and more people who have achieved nothing have become terribly boastful. In my youth, you were taught to be modest about anything you'd done but now, to get a job, you have to praise yourself slavishly in your application, and this trend appears to have spilled out into the wider world, so that I find I'm often forced to listen to brazen comments of the 'I've been rated excellent consistently in something or other' and 'I've always been really really good at whatever'. I find it shocking, but it seems to be quite normal now. I think they teach them to do it at school.

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  2. I THOUGHT I WAS THE ONLY ONE IN THE WORLD WHO THOUGHT THIS!!!!! (Sorry. Got a little excited.)It has always worn at my linguistic sensibilities a little -- it was always one of those things about which I repeatedly thought: "Someday, I'm going to look up alternate definitions and see if I've missed something." But...well, there it is. In short, you (as they say) rock for pointing this out.

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    1. The only appropriate response to that is: I'm humbled

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  3. The poor woman must have been fed those lines by her press secretary. I think that the 'Firm' have been paranoid about seeming out of touch ever since their widely-criticised response to Diana's death.

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