A great humble

This weekend we heard an interesting discussion on A Way With Words. A caller disputed the word humbled in certain first-person uses, particularly when a notable celebrity or authority is thanking a wide audience for an award. Martha Barnette sided with the caller: the word is disingenuous, even immodest in that context. Use of the word honored constitutes better diction and does not imply relative positions between the award recipient and audience.

Grant Barrett disagreed, stating that the use of humbled in this context is decades old (as is the complaint), and that a general dismissal of the word is unfair. What of those cases when recipients “are genuinely brought down low?” He continued: “They’re not up there preening. It’s part of the social glue that’s necessary to express that you’re worthy of the honor.”

It’s interesting that the in- and out-of-studio disagreement fell along the same gender lines, because we passed the debate onto another couple, who reported identical battle lines: the husband agreeing with Barrett, the wife with Barnette. Listen here. The discussion starts at 17:44. We all know that two data points create a trend and three are cause for an article. If we can get another couple or two to chime up in the comments, we might just get T-shirts printed up.


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