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humble again
Posted: 05 June 2012 05:58 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Remember this?
http://wordoriginsorg.yuku.com/topic/6591/humble-overused#.T863UluTNhE

Today I read an example that takes the cake.

Queen Elizabeth: “The events that I have attended to mark my Diamond Jubilee have been a humbling experience.”

So this months long cavalcade of extravagant ceremonies celebrating her six decades as monarch have curtailed or destroyed her pride, humiliated her, caused her to be meek or modest in spirit, given her a lower condition or station, or abased her? FMR.

(Probably doesn’t need its own thread, but I can’t bump the yuku thread.)

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Posted: 06 June 2012 05:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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So what’s your point? The Queen is a liar and isn’t genuinely feeling “modest” in spirit or that she’s ignorant?

I’m fine with her use of the word. I understand the “undeserving” sense without a blink.

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Posted: 06 June 2012 06:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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His point is that the word “humbling” makes no sense in context.  Which it doesn’t, any more than it makes sense when an athlete who’s just won the Athlete of the Century award rambles about how it “humbles” him.  It’s just one of those meaningless soundbites we must all put up with.  (Come on, you don’t seriously think HRM seriously thinks she’s “undeserving,” do you?  That would turn her into a republican.)

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Posted: 06 June 2012 08:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Note that her majesty does not specify who is being humbled. The entire spectacle of the jubilee is an exercise in the British people humbling themselves before the queen. (Although I don’t really think this is what she meant.)

I would say that the verb, or more precisely the gerund in the phrase humbling experience, has developed an idiomatic Janus sense. The expression is far too common to label an “error.” It doesn’t look like the OED entry has been updated since the first edition. Perhaps when the third edition gets around to it, this sense will be noted.

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Posted: 06 June 2012 09:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I would say that the verb, or more precisely the gerund in the phrase humbling experience, has developed an idiomatic Janus sense. The expression is far too common to label an “error.”

You’re right, of course, but what is that sense?

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Posted: 06 June 2012 11:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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A humbling experience is one that demonstrates one’s greatness, achievement, or excellence for which social niceties require a reference to false modesty.

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Posted: 06 June 2012 11:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Or, in this case, “I happened to be born to the right parents and all I did was what it seemed like I had to do at the time.  None of this is due to any great effort on my part and I just happened to live long enough to get this far.  Now I’m getting all this honour dumped on me.”

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Posted: 06 June 2012 12:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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social niceties require a reference to false modesty.

Why is it necessarily false? Isn’t it possible Liz understands that she’s just a person like everyone else? Isn’t it possible that all the accolades have actually reminded her of that?

I’ve been in the situation where I’ve received accolades that were deserved but at the same time, it reminded me that I was just trying to do the best I could with what I had, a situation that I think describes most people and so while I was flattered, I was also reminded (by myself) that I’m nothing special. If you’ve never experienced the same thing, I can understand how you might feel it isn’t possible to be humbled by accolades, but for me, it is possible to feel that way and I don’t accept that it is necessarily false modesty when someone else speaks of it.

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Posted: 06 June 2012 12:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I’m willing to accept it’s true for you, but not for the vast numbers of people who use the phrase, and especially not for She Who Has Everything but a Family Name.

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Posted: 06 June 2012 01:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Happydog has nailed it.  Snide comments don’t advertise impartiality.  Our Queen is a supreme example of dedication, professionalism and service, whatever you may think about her funding arrangements. 

After all, you’re not paying for her - I am, and like many Brits, I’m also extremely proud of the continuity of heritage that she represents.

How sad that my one small return to the board made me read such unedifying comments.

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Posted: 06 June 2012 03:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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So what’s your point? The Queen is a liar and isn’t genuinely feeling “modest” in spirit

Basically, yes…

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Posted: 06 June 2012 04:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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I tend to agree with Happydog.

To answer OP Tipping’s question (which was probably purely rhetorical) seriously, I think the sense of “humble” here is “cause to be modest in spirit”.  (Edit- i see happydog furnished precisely this answer as well, or at least strongly implied it.) And i agree with happydog that accolades can inspire a feeling of humility, or modesty, and be humbling in that sense.

Whether the queen actually experienced a sense of modesty of spirit is a question relating to her sincerity, but, even assuming the statement was completely insincere, her word usage was not incorrect.

The discussion calls to mind the expression “humblebrag”: comments that are, ostensibly, assertions of humility, but that actually demonstrate just how arrogant a person actually is.  While people who indulge in humblebrags deserve to be mocked, it is their insincerity that should be the target of scorn, not their word choices.  They are, by definition, trying to convey that they are humble, so humble, humility, modesty (or other, similar, terms) are precisely the “right” words for them to be using. It is their lack of sincerity (or, perhaps, their lack of insight into their own arrogance) that is oh so very wrong.

Segue alert: one particularly egregious humblebrag (which I witnessed before I was aware of the term) involved a public service announcement in which an actor said that the thing he appreciated about his mom was that she “keeps me Josh”.  I recognized the actor’s face but didn’t know his name, and, for a moment, I had absolutely no idea of what he was talking about.  Then I bust out laughing when I realized the actor’s first name was Josh and that he meant that his mom helps him avoid becoming arrogant (a point that seemed, to me, to be undermined by the fact that he was referring to himself in the third person in the very course of explaining what it is that stops him from becoming pompous.). But, even in this silly example, the actor would not be misusing the word humble if he said that his mom helps him remain humble, nor would he be misusing he word if he referred to an interaction with his mom as a “humbling experience” if what he meant was that the experience inspired in him a sense of modesty.

[ Edited: 06 June 2012 04:44 PM by Svinyard118 ]
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Posted: 06 June 2012 05:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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ElizaD, you seem to be arguing with someone who is not here… I haven’t said a word against the Queen’s dedication, professionalism, service, funding arrangements, haven’t uttered a peep against the ceremonies themselves, and from your tone I can only assume you’ve made false assumptions about my opinions on these things: it is hardly a strong criticism to assume that she would find these ceremonies in her honour uplifting, not according-to-Hoyle humbling. I know I would.

Our topic today is the overuse or inappropriate use of “humble” (and its various forms) as originally outlined in the thread in the yuku forum.

[To be honest I’m surprised and a little saddened that the Queen has to bother with such things. Hard to imagine Victoria calling the parades in her honour “humbling”, though she did saying they were “touching” and that she’d been “moved and gratified”. ]

The two likely explanations are:
1/ the language has changed subtlely: DW suggests humbling experience specifically has become a Janus term in such contexts
or 2/ this is just a polite, formulaic lie that people are expected to trot out at times such as this, much as someone might call the jumped-up arrogant tosser he’s arguing with “my esteemed colleague”.

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Posted: 06 June 2012 06:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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"Formulaic lie” is a tad strong, isn’t it?

I’m with Happydog and others on this. When I’m complimented in public (an increasingly rare event) I’m somewhat, errm,
1.  embarrassed.
2.  Then I have a moment of recognition that I perform an “office” that I did not create (minister) and did not earn (we see ordination as a gift not “deserved” NB, If I in any way thought it “deserved” I would perform the office badly. I’ve seen way too many of my colleagues do this).
3.  Then I am aware of tens of folks who make my work look great, but I’ve not done any of the “grunt work” (the phone calls, the trainings, the encouragements, the minor rewards) that made all that I’m being given credit for possible.

So, I’m humbled.

And in my work, we also often use the plural pronoun “we” in the subjects of sentences referring to our work. Rarely would I use “I”. I also heard the governor of Wisconsin do the same thing last night by saying “When we took on this fight...”

I’m not a monarchist (monarchialist?) by any means, But I don’t think the woman’s lying when she says she’s
“humbled.”

She doesn’t have to spend a lot of time on a psychotherapist’s couch to realize that she’s DONE nothing to deserve the accolades given her. She has only decided to serve and while that has a sort of earned quality about it, it’s not enough to deserve the flottilla, the stage full of musicians, the light shows and the crowds of admirers.

I think it’s a socially circumscribed role that few of us would love to live. A fish bowl if you will, and she needs to be given credit where credit is due.

[ Edited: 06 June 2012 06:35 PM by Oecolampadius ]
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Posted: 06 June 2012 06:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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an athlete who’s just won the Athlete of the Century award rambles about how it “humbles” him.

An entirely invidious comparison. While social niceties demand that he not say “I deserve this” he certainly does. And it is therefore a strange use of the word humility.

But, as I’ve said regarding the queen and myself, there is no deserving. In my business it’s called “Grace” and we just say thanks while expressing an appropriate--and altogether honest--sense of unworthiness.

[ Edited: 06 June 2012 06:30 PM by Oecolampadius ]
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Posted: 06 June 2012 07:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Apt that you mentioned grace, since this whole thread has been reminding me of the “There but for the grace of God” thread.

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