Nothing gets my back up more than somebody using the word “humble” to mean exactly the opposite of its definition.
The most high profile case of this that I can think of Jonathan Ive saying last year he was “humbled” to receive a knighthood. Today I was reminded of it when I read that Casey Hopkins found it “humbling” that people generously funded his Kickstarter project to the tune of $1.4 million. (apologies, Casey – there are many, many examples of this… yours was just in the right place at the right time to prompt this blog post!)
“Humble” means to have a low estimate of one’s importance, or to lack dignity. So to be “humbled”, is to feel unimportant as a result of something which may be described as “humbling”, or undignifying.
If you were at the top of your game but luck dealt you a bad hand and you ended up begging on the street, that would be humbling. If you were at the top of your game but you spent a few days on the streets to raise awareness for a homeless charity, you may find the experience to be humbling in a rewarding, learning-from-it sense.
But to have your sense of self-importance boosted by being awarded a knighthood, or to have your self-confidence reassured by the support of your peers is the complete opposite.
The only way a knighthood could be humbling is if you thought you deserve to be God, but were only awarded a knighthood.
And receiving $1.4 million in donations through Kickstarter might be humbling if you firmly believed you deserved to reach your target of $10 million.
Actually, I can think of one thing that annoys me more, but you could probably care less…