Monday, February 20, 2023

Awful Song Lyrics

To me, the worst song ever written is “Feliz Navidad” by Jose Feliciano. I know…it’s a Christmas classic and some people love it, but I despise it like I despise high taxes and lying politicians. I despise it like I despise stepping on gum or getting a group text. Have you looked at the lyrics? The song is three minutes and three seconds long. There are 232 words. All of them are “Feliz Navidad…Prospero ano y Felicidad…I wanna wish you a Merry Christmas…From the bottom of my heart.” That’s 19 words. My second sentence of this paragraph is 22 words long. I timed myself, and it took me 27 seconds to type the second sentence. I want a song that takes longer than 27 seconds to write.

But I didn’t start this blog post because of “Feliz Navidad.” I started it because I listened to an Adele song. Wow, she sings great, and it was a pretty song, sung by a woman who can charge $1400 for a concert ticket in the fourth deck of a stadium that seats 40,000 people. It got to the chorus, and she sang these words. “But I set fire to the rain. Watched it pour as I touched your face. Well, it burned while I cried ’cause I heard it screaming out your name.” What? She watched the pouring, burning-on-fire rain while she touched your face, and she cried because the pouring, burning-on-fire rain screamed out your name? It would make more sense to set rain to the fire, but that makes almost no sense either. I mean, you could flood a fire, but surely you can’t set fire to a flood, can you?

And this motivated me. What are some other ridiculous lyrics?

Pharrell Williams has a catchy song called “Happy” that has a fun music video which might even motivate a person with a sour disposition to get up and dance and be “happy.” But what about the first line of the chorus? “Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof.” I’m just going to be transparent here. I’ve never felt like a room of any kind in my entire life, and I don’t know why I would. But if I felt like a room and the roof was missing, wow, I can only imagine how happy that would make me. Aussie comedian, Kate Langbroek, asked Pharrell why a room without a roof was happy. His response was it was “metaphorical for one’s space without limit.” Oh. Except a room has four walls, limiting anyone in it. And if I needed a space without limit, and metaphorically speaking I was in a room without a roof, wouldn’t I need to be able to fly to get to the space without limits? It’s a dumb lyric.

There’s a song called “Summer Girls” by LFO. None of the lyrics make sense but I cherry picked two verses for the sake of time and space. These are the ridiculous lines:

You’re the best girl that I ever did see

The great Larry Bird, jersey 33

When you take a sip, you buzz like a hornet

Billy Shakespeare wrote a whole bunch of sonnets


Stayed all summer then went back home

Macaulay Culkin wasn’t Home Alone

Fell deep in love, but now we ain’t speaking

Michael J. Fox was Alex P. Keaton


I was so impressed by these lyrics, I took three minutes to write my own to mirror them:

You’re the best girl, and I love you

Magic Johnson, jersey 32.

When you take a bite, you belch like a toad

George Martin wrote Game of Thrones


Stayed all summer then went back to school

Ryan Gosling wasn’t Deadpool

We played cards inside your trailer

Ron Howard was Opie Taylor


I may have written a hit song.


The group, Sade, sang the classic song, “Smooth Operator,” co-written by Sade Adu and Ray St. John, with the classic line, “Coast to coast, LA to Chicago.” Together, they only managed to get about 70% across the United States, but I’m giving them both 50% credit for the stupid lyric.

Oasis has a song called “Champagne Supernova." In it are these classic lines:

“Slowly walkin’ down the hall

Faster than a cannonball

Where were you while we were getting high?”


Now, here is an actual metaphor, Pharrell Williams. A metaphor is a comparison between two things that are otherwise unrelated. With a metaphor, the qualities of one thing are figuratively carried over to another. You know, like how a person is like a cannonball because a person walks slow but faster than a fast thing that shoots out of a cannon. I looked it up. A cannonball travels about 820 feet per second, which is considerably slower than a person ambling down a hallway.


In “Vertigo” by U2, Bono masters Spanish counting. “Uno, dos, tres, catorce!” One, two, three, fourteen. When asked about the lyric, Bono admitted alcohol might have been involved.


“Sk8er Boi” by Avril Lavigne begins with these three lines:

“He was a boy

She was a girl

Can I make it any more obvious?”


You mean any more vague? Ambiguous? Nebulous? Unclear? Imprecise? I used a thesaurus. She should have used a dictionary.


The Killers have a song called “Human” where they posed a serious question. “I’m down on my knees, searching for the answer…Are we human or are we dancer?” Since the lyricist is searching close to the floor, I assume “dancer” is a tiny species I’m unaware of.

Rihanna sings the song “What’s My Name?” where she attempts a math calculation in the midst of her song. “The square root of 69 is 8 something, right?/ ’cause I’ve been tryna work it out.” I don’t know if 69 is a sexual connotation with a nonsensical “root,” but with a calculator she could’ve rounded this to approximately 8.31, and she could put her pencil and eraser away.


Red Hot Chili Peppers has a song called “Suck My Kiss.” They sing, “K-I-S-S-I-N-G, Chicka chicka dee/ Do me like a banshee/ Low brow is how/ Swimming in the sound of bow wow wow.” Wow, wow, the title should be “My Kissing Song Sucks.”

Hillary Duff is the queen of logic in the song “So Yesterday.” She reminds us “If the light is off, then it isn’t on.” Whoever said a left-brained artist doesn’t have right-brained thinking skills hasn’t met Hillary Duff.

Prince wrote “Superfunkycalifragisexy.” I hand-picked two lines from this sexy song. “Keep the blood flowing down to your feet. Brother Lois will be around in a minute with a bucket filled with squirreled meat.” The sexiness of this song is as obvious as the fact Lois is a male, it’s normally difficult to keep the blood flowing down to our feet, and everyone knows how to squirrel meat.


My final selection is “Sexy and I Know It” by LMFAO. Here are the lyrics that probably took 27 seconds to write. “Wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle yeah/ Wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle yeah, yeah.” I like the two “yeah’s” at the end for variety. Certainly, the penning of those words rivals Jose Feliciano’s talent for creatively stringing together wonderful lyrics that ring in your head unmercifully for the rest of the day.

I wasn’t completely honest about why I wrote this blog. Yes, I saw strange Adele lyrics, but mostly I have been dealing with a mini-writer’s block. I’m writing a novel, but it’s been like the funny part of my brain stopped working. My sense of humor needed a kickstart, so I needed to do something about it. People have been visiting my blog lately in record numbers, so I decided to start there and find a topic where I could be sarcastic and light-hearted and make myself laugh a little. This is my writing tip of the day—mini- or maxi-writer’s block. Change gears and write about something else at least temporarily to see if it can get you jumpstarted again. And if you’re interested in one of my books where humor flowed out of me freely, check out the following link

Monday, May 9, 2022

Selling Books in Public

 Back in the summer of 2010, my first novel, Loving the Rain, was published in paperback only (I had no clue about ebooks). I was an 8th-grade English teacher who loved books, but I found I had no idea what to do with mine. I bravely ordered 200 copies. My students and fellow teachers were very supportive, and I sold about 100 copies easily. But what else could I do? I decided to attempt to sell them in public. I first went to the farmers' markets in the town where I taught and the town where I grew up. Both let me come for free initially. Next, both of those same towns had art in the park events, which was much more lucrative than the farmers' markets. I've sold my books at craft shows, book clubs, flee markets, workshops, Kiwanis clubs, bookstores, libraries, author expos, and town festivals, and I've learned a lot. The purpose of the rest of this blog is to share my insights on how to sell. 

1. Have some common sense and thick skin when people you know don't buy from you. When I first started, every time I saw someone I knew, I assumed they'd buy a book from me, and when they didn't, it bothered me--until I gave it a little sensible thought. Just because the person is someone from work, your neighbor, your relative, or an acquaintance from church, it doesn't mean they're a reader. A few may purchase a book just to "support you," but if the person isn't a reader, they just stopped to say hello and congratulations. They don't buy because they don't read. There's nothing you can do about that, and it's okay. It would be like you stopping by the farmer's market, and your neighbor is selling beets, okra, eggplant, and collard greens, none of which you like or know how to cook. You aren't going to walk out with some collard greens anyway, just to be supportive if you don't like them or know how to cook them. Non-readers don't buy books. It's something you need to understand when you're selling, so you can stay upbeat even in the face of "rejection." 

2. You don't have to sell shoppers on your books. Readers are attracted to books. I've been shopping with my wife before, bored and impatient, and then I see a bookstore. That's where I go. I read. I'm attracted to books. Readers love used book stores. Readers go to garage sales just to see if there are books. Readers look at their friends' bookshelves. And readers buy books at craft shows, art shows, and farmers' markets. You don't have to be a salesman. The more you talk about your books, the more likely you are to turn them away empty-handed. Tell the shoppers the books are mysteries, horror, romance, or suspense, but don't tell them what they're about or how long it took you to write them or what your characters are like or why you wrote the book. Let them read the back covers. Answer their questions with only a few words. Be polite and attentive, and let them decide for themselves like every shopper in a bookstore does. 

3. If you're selling books and there are people standing in front of your table, other shoppers will walk by without stopping. So what do you do...or don't you do? First, don't attract non-book buyers to your table. Book lovers will walk directly to your table, usually to stare at your book covers for an uncomfortably long time. People who aren't book lovers may be interested in seeing what you're selling, but they usually don't stop. Don't try to draw them over. They might come to be polite, but if they aren't readers, they won't purchase anything, and an actual buyer might walk by while they're standing there. Don't put candy on your table for kids. They'll come for it, and the parents might stay to talk. Say hi to people as they walk by to show you're friendly, but don't try to get them to stop. Second, attract book buyers. Have attractive displays with pictures, banners, table coverings, books on book stands, etc. You want them to notice you have attractive covers and new books. And then smile, say hello, and talk as little as possible about your books. Let them sell themselves.

4. Hints: Stop yawning, stay off your phone, stand whenever people are around, herd friends and family to the back side of the table to keep them from blocking your display, and if someone stays and talks too long, see if you can get them to move to the side or ask them if they mind if other shoppers can get to your books.  

5. Avoid pictures or posters/banners that show your book in e-book format. That gives every single shopper an excuse to not buy your book. They say they'll buy it on e-book, but believe me, they won't. 

6. Have a credit card reader or application on your phone for credit card sales. PayPal, for instance, will take a small fee for the transaction, but if you only accept cash, you'll lose sales. 

7. Give out business cards or bookmarks to buyers so they can contact you if they want to make future purchases.

8. Have a pen to sign your books...or pre-sign them. Buyers love autographed books. 

9. More hints: Be kind...say thank humble. Don't wear clothes like t-shirts promoting college teams or political affiliations because people will judge you. Compliment your shoppers, give kids discounts, and be willing to take a little off the sale price for people who buy multiple books (if they ask). 

So someone stops by your attractive table with your books displayed neatly. You say, "Hi, how are you today?" After they reply, if they haven't said anything about your books, comment on something they're wearing or compliment them on something not offensive like "I like your hat" or comment on their college t-shirt. "Ohio State has a big game today." When they ask me about my books (I have eight), I say, "These three are detective crime mysteries. This one is a mystery/treasure hunt with ties to World War II. These three are time-travel action adventures." They might say, "What is your first book?" I say, "Loving the Rain." They might say "Does it matter what order you read them in?" I say, "Both of these are series, but they can be read stand alone." They might say, "What one is your favorite?" I smile and say, "Each one was my favorite until I wrote the next one." They might say, "Can kids read them?" I say, "There's no sex or swearing if that's what you're asking." They might say, "What are they about?" I hand them a book and say, "You can read the back covers and see what you like best." Are you getting the concept that I don't say much? Rambling on about your book and trying to convince people to buy your book are two things that simply rarely ever work. Let the books sell themselves while you are polite, friendly, and attentive. 

Over the years, I've been to many events which included multiple authors. Some of those authors have literally left without a single sale. I've also shared a table at events where I've sold a lot, and my author friend sold almost none. There are reasons for that. So now that you have my experienced advice, start planning to sell in public. I've sold thousands of books, and I make far more money per book on printed copies than I do on line, and you will too. 

Saturday, April 2, 2022

The Pharmacy

I retired from teaching English five years ago. Since then, I’ve had five or six different part-time jobs, but the most interesting has to be as a pharmacy technician for a Kroger Pharmacy. I’m into my fourth year now. As you might expect, I have some stories. Some are listed below.


Our lead tech once had to answer the phone as a doctor called in her father’s prescription for Viagra. She was also there when he came to pick it up.


I waited on a patient who picked up Fluconazole, which is for fungal infections. She asked to speak with our pharmacist, who cautiously prepared to give instructions for the usage. “I’m not sure what you’re using it for, but…” She was cut off as the young lady announced far too loudly. “It’s for my vagina!”


A customer came in and asked our pharmacist if we had any tablets. Well, we have all sorts of pills, capsules, and tablets, so the pharmacist said, “We have a lot of different kinds of tablets. Can you be more specific?” The customer responded, “You know…iPad, Android, Galaxy…”



At the drive-through at the pharmacy, at times, the line was extraordinarily long. One day a customer pulled up after a long wait and looked at me through the window, standing there in my Kroger pharmacy smock. He said, “I’ll have a venti caramel macchiato, steamed, two shots vanilla, and caramel sprinkles.” I stared at him a moment and said, “This is the drive-through for the pharmacy. We don’t take Starbucks orders.” He said, “Oh, man, I’ve been in this line for a half hour. Can you run down to Starbucks and get it for me?” I said, “Um, no sir. You’ll have to go inside.” It’s worth saying that I’ve also had a person drive up and ask for me to get him some ice cream and beer. I didn’t; however, I did have his cholesterol medicine.


A lady called one of our techs for help finding a man. She wanted a travel companion and claimed she’d pay for everything. Her only stipulations were he had to be single, couldn’t have tattoos, and with great emphasis, she said he must have “No moostache.”


I listened in to a conversation with a male customer and our female pharmacist. “Why are my blood pressure pills keeping me from having an erection?” I guess that was a less uncomfortable discussion than the one from the guy from the nudist colony (yes, apparently, there is one in our community). He was picking up his Sildenafil, the generic for Viagra. He told our female pharmacist he called it his “Sildena-feel good.”


A confused technician, after reading doctor's directions for a prescription for Diazepam, the generic for Valium, asked our pharmacist, “It says here for the patient to insert the pill into her vagina. Is that a thing?” The pharmacist admitted it was unusual, but yes, it was a thing. So the technician said, and I quote, “If she needs a Valium for her va-jay-jay, she needs to take a break.”


On a rainy, gusty evening, a regular customer pulled up—a customer who always, and I mean always, looked confused. He handed me a written prescription for Hydrocodone for pain. I checked his profile, and he didn’t have any other previous prescriptions for the medicine, so I knew our pharmacist would have to check his history in the database before we went through the process of filling the controlled substance. He asked when he could have it, and I told him we’d need about an hour. He said he wanted it “Now.” I told him that wasn’t possible and there were many reasons. He asked to have his prescription back, so he could go somewhere else. I told him it would probably take longer somewhere else since he was our customer, in addition to having the same issues we had, but he demanded I give him the script back. I shrugged my shoulders and put it in the drawer and pushed it open. He grabbed the paper, and then a tremendous gust of wind blew it out of his hands. We both watched it flutter away into the darkness and pouring rain. He stared at me with his mouth hanging open, that same confused look I was accustomed to seeing. I felt I had to say something, so I said, “I’ll see you in a month, Mr. ______.”


There used to be a regular customer in the drive-through. He couldn’t hear a word I said, no matter how I said it—even through the phone he could access outside our window. But at the beginning, I didn’t know he was nearly deaf. So the first time, after shouting at him “What is your of birth…the day you were born!?” with no word recognition, I decided to write him a note. I took a white paper bag and wrote in huge letters, “What is your birthdate?” He took the bag from the drawer, looked at it, stretched it as far from his face as he could get it, and finally said, “I can’t see this!” I struggle sometimes to keep my sarcasm to myself, so I said, “You did drive here, didn’t you?” He shouldn’t have. He didn’t hear me. He drove away empty-handed.


A lady, after waiting quite some time in the drive-through line, finally got up to the window. Obviously, she hadn’t put her car in park because while looking through her purse for her credit card, she managed to step on the gas, and her car shot forward out of view. Immediately, the car behind her pulled up to the window as I stood there stunned from watching her car zoom away. Eventually, she walked up and stood between the new car and the window and dropped her card in the drawer.


A car drove up. The driver parked past the window, but the back seat window lined up perfectly. He reached down, grabbed the lever for his reclining seat, and dropped backward, nearly parallel with the ground. While lying on his back, he reached across his body and rolled his window down. Straining, he lifted his head, telling me his name and birthdate through his back window. As humorous as that was, it was nothing compared to his efforts to reach from his back, through the window, to place his money into the basket to pay for his transaction, an action only a contortionist could pull off. “I don’t need a bag,” he announced from his prone position. That was nice of him, but he was getting 93 cents in change, and we were out of quarters, so he got nine dimes and three pennies I had to put in a little basket he could only reach because of some miracle of nature. He caught the edge of the basket in his fingertips and carefully swung it through the window, dumping two pill bottles, three receipts, and twelve coins on his face. Sheepishly, he raised his seat back up and drove away.


A transaction was taking too long for the car next in line, so the driver kindly started honking his horn like an idiot. Well, the passenger in the car at the window turned and flipped off the kind, patient driver behind him and started swearing like “a sailor.” He wasn’t a sailor because had he ever been in the military, he’d have died in action. The dumb passenger climbed out of his passenger door and continued to swear at the honker, who incredibly told him to get back in his car before he shot him. Yes…true story. Dumb Not-a-Sailor started yelling, “Go ahead and shoot me. I dare you.” What? Why? I had to ask the customer I was waiting on to get his friend to get back in the car before a murder occurred. We called the police, and the customer with the gun never got his prescription. Another Valium customer? I wonder where he inserted his meds.


A guy drove up to the drive-through and asked if we gave flu shots. I said we did. He asked, “Could I get one right now? I’ve been waiting in this line forever.” I told him he had to come inside to register and that if he didn’t have an appointment, there could be a long wait. He replied, “The pharmacist can’t just give me a shot here in the drive-through?” Stunned, I was almost at a loss for words—almost. “How do you suspect you’re going to get your shoulder inside the building because I’m certain you can’t fit through the drawer.” I even pushed it open for him to visualize.


A fun customer stepped up to the register inside the pharmacy just as the power went out. Though the power came back on quickly, all of our computers shut down and had to be rebooted, which, unfortunately, doesn’t happen quickly. I told the man the computers went down. He said, “What’s the delay?” I said, “The computers need to reboot.” He said, “Well, that’s not my problem.” I don’t know whose problem it was if it wasn’t his.   

I have to say, I don’t have the retirement thing figured out what with two part-time jobs, an editing business, and novel writing, marketing, and sales, but there’s no denying people are interesting creatures and great characterization material. If you’re a writer and have the need for an editor, there’s information here on my blog. If you’re a reader, please check out my eight novels. I would love for you to give them a try.

Friday, March 25, 2022

Author Notes

An author’s note can have many uses, but it is generally a way for authors to speak directly to their readers about their work. It might explain what they created or why they created it. It could be a reflection of what they learned while writing their novels or how they grew as an author. Since it’s used to address the audience directly, it could create a connection between authors and their readers, possibly making the work more memorable or meaningful. It might be a statement authors feel needs to be made, or it could be an explanation of how reality mingles with fiction, so readers are better informed.

One of my favorite authors, the late Robert B. Parker of the fantastic Spenser series, wrote a book called Double Play. It’s written about Jackie Robinson and his bodyguard, Joseph Burke, in 1947 when Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier. I’m going to quote Parker’s author note verbatim. “This is a work of fiction about a real man. Most of what I’ve written, I made up. I have, however, attempted to render Jackie Robinson accurately—as he was, or as I imagined him to be in 1947 when I was turning fifteen, and he was changing the world. The rest is altogether fiction. It may be more Burke’s story than Jackie’s, but without Jackie, Burke would have had no story. And neither would I.” It was a phenomenal book, but Parker felt the need to not only give Jackie Robinson credit but also make it clear to his readers that he made the story up. That’s a good use of an author note.

John Grisham wrote an author note for Calico Joe, another of my favorite books, about a fictional event in the 1973 professional baseball season. He wrote, "The mixing of real people, places, and events into a novel is tricky business. This is a story about the Cubs and Mets and the 1973 season, but, please, all you die-hard fans, don't read this with any expectation of accuracy. I have completely rearranged schedules, rosters, rotations, records, batting orders, and I've even thrown in some fictional players to mix it up with the real ones. This is a novel, so any mistake should be promptly classified as part of the fiction."

Harlan Coben is my favorite author, but on the first page of Miracle Cure, there's a "note from the author," which is awful. It says "Okay, if this is the first book of mine you're going to try, stop now. Return it. Grab another. It's okay." Wow. He also said, "Please know that I haven't read Miracle Cure in at least twenty years. It is my second published novel, one I wrote...when I was just a naive lad....I'm hard on it.” He said, “Man, what was I thinking?... It is a bit preachy in spots and sometimes dated.” Then he said, “Flawed and all, I love this book." It doesn't sound like he loved it because if he did, he wouldn't have written the author note. 

I say instead of putting forth a warning, he should’ve revised his book. Made it better. Republished it so he could be proud of it. Or if he didn’t want to revisit the manuscript, he should’ve unpublished it so people don’t read it, thinking it’s on a par with his other works and find themselves disappointed. I was disappointed. I couldn’t get it out of my head that Coben was uncomfortable with me reading it, and I found out from an ill-advised author note. 

I’m an author too, and I’ve used author notes to make important comments a few times but never to make excuses for my writing or to warn my readers they may not enjoy my book. In my mystery, Lost and Found, there is a treasure hunt and a search for a grandfather with dementia. The novel starts in Germany just before WWII. A German-Jewish family sends a son to America with a treasure of art. As I researched the book, I found ample opportunity to include recorded historical events throughout my mystery. But the book was fiction, so I made up things as well, and some of the non-fictional events included my made-up characters and their fictional activities. I felt compelled at the end of the book to explain what was factual and what wasn’t. I used an author note to do so and felt it was a nice addition to my book.

In my two most recent books, I’ve had to include an author note similar to one from John Green and A Fault in Our Stars. He said, "This is not so much an author's note as an author's reminder of what was printed in small type a few pages ago: This book is a work of fiction. I made it up. Neither novels nor their readers benefit from attempts to divine whether any facts hide inside a story. Such efforts attack the very idea that made-up stories can matter, which is sort of the foundational assumption of our species. I appreciate your cooperation in this matter."

Maybe he was serious because of some feedback or some similarities to something real in his life or of someone he knew, or maybe he was sarcastically joking since people know he writes fiction. Either way, this is a good use of an author note, and it’s a use I made of the notes in my last two novels.

In Jumper, the first book in my time-travelers series, I literally got some one-star reviews because, as I was told, the Staff of Moses wasn’t made of sapphire and it never was a possession of Adam in the Garden of Eden. There were other Biblical references that I used as ideas, but readers wanted me to know that I was a heretic, and I didn’t know my Bible. Well, I never said what I wrote was factual. I wrote a fictional novel. I made things up. I was also told that the Jordanian military wasn’t an elite fighting force. Well, again, so what? They were in my book because I made it up. I did plenty of research to get peripheral details correct, but I never claimed to be writing non-fiction. I was criticized for making Muslims my bad guys in the Middle East as if I was making some political statement, but I never mentioned Muslims, and the true baddy was an Israeli. The only reason the book was in Jordan was because that was where Mt. Nebo was and where the Staff of Moses was found and where one of my main Biblical characters was actually from. It wasn’t political at all.

So when I wrote the follow-ups, Planer and Warper, I wrote author notes. I said, “I shouldn’t have to say this, but I’m compelled to remind my readers that this is a work of fiction. I made this up, including stories that often have a basis in the Bible.” I said other things including that they’re not political books. But mostly I said, “I’m telling you as clearly as I can that I made things up like authors do.” It’s what Robert B. Parker did. It's what John Grisham did. It’s what John Green did. It’s what J.K. Rowling did in Harry Potter. I have to wonder if people wrote her and told her the magic that was done was impossible like they did to me to tell me my details weren't accurate. So I wrote an author note like many authors do, and I reminded my readers I am a fictional novelist. If things seem so real that I have to be reminded elements are inaccurate, it means I did a good job researching and making my made-up story believable.  

So if you’re an author and there is something you feel is important to say, say it in an author note. Just don’t tell your readers to put it back and try something else because it’s so flawed. That’s my advice from The Red Pen. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

In My Humble Opinion


There is a scene in The Princess Bride where Vizzini keeps remarking that the Dread Pirate Roberts’s deeds are inconceivable. “Inconceivable!” he shouts. Finally, Inigo Montoya makes a rather obvious reply. “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” Exactly.

There is another word people use, and I don’t think it means what they think it means. Humbled. Humbled means to lower (someone) in dignity or importance, typically one who was previously thought to be superior. To make someone understand they aren’t as important or special as they thought. Synonyms? How about humiliate, debase, shame, demean, belittle, degrade, dishonor, bring down, put down, eat crow, or fall from grace? 

Thirty-three-year-old Marcus Freeman was hired by Notre Dame to become their next football coach. He said it was “humbling” to be chosen. So he was elevated from defensive coordinator to his first head coaching job in one of the most elite programs in the country, and it somehow lowered his dignity and importance. He shamefully had been belittled.

Mario Cristobal was “honored and humbled” to be named the Miami Hurricanes' next football coach. Yes, it’s quite an honor to come back to his alma mater to coach, but what was the humbling part? The part where he was greeted like a politician who just won an election or the part where he’ll now make eighty million dollars over the next ten years?

Speaking of politicians, our own president, Joe Biden, said at his acceptance speech after eighty million people voted for him, “I am humbled by the trust and confidence you have placed in me.” So a man who formerly lost the presidential election two other times somehow had to eat crow when he won. Somehow winning showed him he was less important and special than he thought.

Iconic rapper, Missy Elliot, won four Grammy Awards, sold over thirty million records in the United States, was named the best-selling female rapper in Nielsen Music history, and Billboard ranked her number five of the one hundred greatest music video artists of all time. So when she was awarded her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, she said, “I am humbled.” Clearly, after all the previous recognition, she knew she was good, and the star with her name on it confirmed she was, right? But she was humiliated to be put down in such a way. Wait…

Bill Gates was “deeply humbled to receive the medal of freedom for [his] foundation’s efforts to make the world more equal for everyone.” I’m sorry, Bill, it was demeaning to you to be told you made the world a better place (in your humble opinion)?

Dak Prescott was “humbled” to be named to the Pro Bowl. His exact words were “it’s humbling.” Yes, being told you’re one of the very best at your profession is quite degrading and dishonoring. Following up on a four-year, $160 million contract with a Pro Bowl selection must have left him feeling embarrassed and ashamed.

Poet Daniel Borzutzky won the 2016 National Book Award for his collection The Performance of Becoming Human. His response? “It was never anything I expected to happen, and I’m really humbled by the fact that people read my book so closely and that they’ve cared for it.” So, you, a master of words, found it troubling that you never expected an award, yet you won, finding out how impressive you actually are. I’m sure it was shocking to have to admit your debased opinion of yourself was so wrong. Humbling, in fact. It must have been awful for you.

The great writer, C.S. Lewis said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it’s thinking of yourself less.” I think there’s almost certainly one constant emotional state or condition of any sports hero, music or acting star, best-selling artist, billionaire, or lifelong politician—self-confidence. Probably vanity is a partner of that confidence. So while in the midst of winning, achieving, setting records, making gazillions of dollars, and wading through constant attention, adulation, and success, most probably aren’t particularly humble (I’m sure there are exceptions). What they more likely have is a huge ego, a tremendous drive for success, and at the very least, a scattering of awards and achievements. So when they win something or achieve something else, to say they are humbled is a false demonstration of humility. It’s a relief, an honor, a recognition for a lifetime of hard work, but it’s not a reflection that they aren’t as special or important as they thought. They’re actually being told they are special; they have achieved something important; they did do something superior. They did something inconceivable. Oh, wait, I don’t think that word means what you think it means…in my humble opinion.