Humble-Bragging, Part 2

The word “humblebrag” has been around long enough that even I have heard of it. (Is that a humblebrag?) A collection of examples has been collected in a book that I have not yet read, entitled, “Humblebrag.” The word is common enough that it is even in the Oxford Dictionary, at least in the online edition.

For some reason, I only recently learned the term and, egomaniac that I am, I thought that I had come up with the concept years ago. I certainly had not.

That is probably a humblebrag.

The word describes the craft of hiding a brag about oneself inside a seemingly self-deprecating statement. For instance, if and when I name-drop a famous person and simultaneously mention how nice they were to li’l ol’ me, which is something that I certainly have done, that is a pretty standard humblebrag. A humblebragger gets two social rewards for the price of one: a congratulations for the achievement that they are proud of—and perhaps ought to be proud of, even without the name-drop—and a verbal pat on the shoulder in recognition of their semi-sincere humbleness. “I met Oprah Winfrey once,” is a minor brag that is almost no brag at all, unless the conversation is not “famous people we have met,” but instead it was your reply to, “Have you decided what you’re getting yet? I’m starving.”

“I was hanging out with Oprah Winfrey the other day,” is a big brag if you merely saw her private plane near your gate at O’Hare Airport. We have been taught that people do not like braggarts and that humbleness is a positive attribute to be celebrated.

“I bet Oprah Winfrey tells just about every li’l ol’ barista (like moi) that they make the best (insert name of coffee concoction here).” That is a humblebrag. It rhymes with “Shut up.”

(In full disclosure, I am not a barista, and I have not met or otherwise encountered Oprah Winfrey. I have been in O’Hare Airport a few times and may have bought a coffee there.)

Most of the above was written a few months ago (“Humble-Bragging and Secret-Keeping”) on the subject of keeping secrets. My thesis then was that if one is asked whether one is good at keeping secrets, there really is no good response to that question. It is a social logic double-bind: If one is good at keeping secrets, there is only one way to prove it—by keeping a secret—and any new acquaintance who might test one’s skill in this realm by sharing a secret is either sharing something not worth keeping secret (“Can you keep a secret? I’ve been wearing blue all week!” “Yeah, um, you’ve worn the same sweater three days in a row.”) or is worth avoiding at the next Anonymity Anonymous meeting. (Friendships offer enough challenging—and rewarding—situations without the addition of tests.)

In a similar vein, one can ask about another person’s bravery; my sad life experience has been that those who tell you spectacular stories about their personal experiences with their own honest-to-goodness bravery sometimes do not show up when needed. (Sometimes they do.) I have been friends with people who have had to dig deep in themselves for physical and emotional bravery—people in the military, a member of the NYPD who was buried in rubble on 9/11, one of the first female firefighters in New York City—and none of them volunteered stories. Each of them would volunteer a story about a time he or she had screwed something up far more readily than speak about rescues they had authored.

I am no hero. I hope I have helped out some people, but since I do not know, I assume I have not. So I keep myself available.

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I chose a new layout. I was using “The Columnist” all 2014, was happy with it, but thought I would change things for the new year. I am still using the free layouts but might invest money in this website. Any suggestions? Advice? Does this layout make my ideas look good? And thank you to those who have responded so far.

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The WordPress Daily Prompt for January 5 asks, “Tell us about the time you rescued someone else (person or animal) from a dangerous situation. What happened? How did you prevail?”

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9 comments

  1. livingonchi · January 5, 2015

    Very nice post. I’m not going to comment on the layout since I’m terrible at noticing layouts. I should make “researching more about layouts” a resolution since I find that I do visually respond to some sites more than others and I don’t know why. This one’s fine to me :p

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Arundhati Mukherjee · January 5, 2015

    Your blog layout looks even better than mine (trying humblebragging here, thanks for imparting the knowledge). Honestly, I can use some advice to make my blog visually appealing…
    Liking your blog 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Martha Kennedy · January 5, 2015

    I always say “No” to the “Are you good at keeping secrets?” because I don’t want the responsibility. I thought I’d get that out into the open. Oh, not attempting a “humble-brag.” I can’t get my mind around the idea but I know I’ve done it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. abodyofhope · January 7, 2015

    Your makeover looks great! Fresh look for the new year.
    I’m not familiar with the term, but now that you’ve so clearly described it, I know for sure I’m very familiar with the act.
    It reminds me of something similar, which needs its own name in my opinion: Always matching something awful in your life with something good. So many people I know find it is an absolute necessity. As long as they pair a positive with a complaint, they somehow think they cancel each other out? lol.
    Anyway, sort of like humble bragging. Need to come up with a term for this too…
    Fun post 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mark Aldrich · January 7, 2015

      That’s a great post idea. I call it “social inoculation” when someone expresses gratitude so they can then talk (complain) about what they really wanted to bring forward. Or compliment something so they can then …

      “All things being equal” is something said by people who disagree with that idea.

      Thanks for all your support!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. abodyofhope · January 10, 2015

    Ha! Perfect name for it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: So Darn Humble | The Gad About Town
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