On Words and Miscommunicating

Words“Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way”. (words and music by Mac Davis)

Our Oakland mayor who was just defeated for a second term has a most assiduous staff which used to bombard me with emails almost every day. After our recent election an email showed up to thank me for my vote. It said: “I am humbled by your support”. In the first place I voted for her opponent, and secondly what has “humbled” got to do with the situation? Why not say “grateful” or “appreciative”? Truly humble and modest people generally do not run for office, do not put themselves forward in any way and certainly do not advertise their humility.

Churchill famously characterized Clement Attlee as “a modest man who has much to be modest about.” Business letters used to contain the closing phrase: I am Sir (Madam) your most humble and obedient servant. We don’t use this Dickensian phraseology any more.

Here is another “miswordism” It is not a spoonerism or malapropism. (I checked). Newscaster: “We’ll see you again at 9.” Doesn’t she mean: You’ll see us again at 9? I sure hope she is not peeking into my living room.

New words added to the Merriam Webster dictionary. In 2013: selfie. It may be a new word but not a new concept. Painters who could not afford models sat in front of a mirror and painted themselves. It was called self-portraiture.

And for a finish here is a quiz question. If you are, like me, a Jeopardy watcher, you may have seen it recently as it was a “final Jeopardy” question: What three letter verb has the most entries in the Oxford English Dictionary? By the way I picked the wrong one. The answer next time!

6 comments

  1. I lost final Jeopardy…
    For contestants who do become champions they should not be ‘humbled’ by their achievement.
    Below is the list of the most common 3-letter words in English,
    BUT it does NOT contain the answer to Simone Says question!
    You’ve got to read those Jeopardy questions carefully:
    “What three letter verb has the most “entries” in the Oxford English Dictionary?

    The Most Common Three Letter Words
    The following words are all words that we use often. These words make up a big part of our language and our speech with other human beings whether we are talking, texting, e-mailing or writing.
    the – specifies, or makes particular
    and – added condition or stipulation
    for – directed to someone or something
    are – present tense of the word be, or a metric unit
    but – on the contrary
    not – no way
    you – a person or someone being addressed
    all – everything
    any – one
    can – a container
    her – a case of the pronoun she
    was – to have actuality, a form of the word be
    one – a number
    our – a possessive form of the pronoun we
    out – to be revealed of something or go outdoors or go beyond expectations
    day – between sunrise and sunset
    get – to come into possession of something
    has – wealthy person, a form of had
    him – a male human being
    his – the possessive form of he
    how – a way of doing something
    man – an adult male
    new – never used before, modern
    now – right at this very moment, the present time
    old – having or being for a very long time
    see – to look or perceive with one’s eyes
    two – the number
    way – a method of doing something
    who – a person or persons
    boy – a young person who is of male gender
    did – part of the musical scale
    its – the possessive form of it
    let – giving permission to
    put – to place something in a spot of your choice
    say – speak words from one’s mouth
    she – a female human being
    too – in addition
    use – put into service
    dad – father
    mom – mother

  2. Enjoyed reading it. I am glad Kwan is defeated because I think she is not smart enough to run for an office. I liked the new word selfie, and I still like it, but you are right the concept was there. Is the three-letter verb “get”? It was fun reading and looking forward to the next blog.

  3. I have always wondered why people who receive an award say that they are humbled by it. It always seemed like it should be the opposite. I guess they want to sound modest as in: “I didn’t deserve it.” But there must be some other way to say that.

  4. The verb can’t be ‘am’ so how about ‘are’?
    Not about me but about you (you are) and us (we are)!
    Note:
    I didn’t do an Internet search and will stay tuned till next time…

    Am glad your candidate for mayor won.
    Happy Holidays!

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