Yes! From The Princess Bride. THAT Inigo Montoya. The “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” guy!
Now, The Princess Bride is a GREAT movie. And that may be Inigo’s most memorable line. But there’s another line of his that I find most endearing.
It’s the one Inigo speaks to Vizzini, the man who hired him to kill the Dread Pirate Roberts. Vizzini is a pompous little man who thinks himself a genius, and is perplexed to find his phenomenal plan being foiled at every turn. Whenever that happens — and it happens a LOT — Vizzini’s response is always the same.
After hearing this for the umpteenth time, Inigo finally has to speak up. With the same sentiment as the little girl in another story who pointed out that the Emperor really wasn’t wearing new clothes, Inigo tells Vizzini, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
That has to be one of my favorite lines in any movie I’ve seen. Why? Because it illustrates the difference between seeing life through beer goggles and seeing it through a microscope. It shows us why it’s so important (and SO difficult) to choose words that mean what you think they mean. By the same token, it’s awfully easy to choose words that don’t, and to fall into the trap of using them — over and over and over again.
Maybe I think too much about that. On the other hand, maybe thinking about these words, and choosing different ones, will improve what we say, and how other people understand and respond to it.
Here’s my short list:
Definition? To merit, be qualified for, or have a claim to (reward, punishment, assistance, etc.) because of actions, qualities, or situation.
Here’s how it gets used every day: I deserve a happy life…. I’ve been working really hard, and I deserve a vacation…. I deserve some respect…. For all the trouble he caused, he deserves whatever he gets…
Wow! I have an issue with all of that. Why? Because, just like my friend Inigo Montoya, I keep hearing people use that word — but I do not think it means what they think it means.
People — you, me, all of us — don’t “deserve” a whole heck of a lot of ANYTHING. We EARN it. We earn a vacation. We earn the respect of others. The choices we make — or DON’T make — earn us a happy life. And if someone has earned a harsh punishment for something they did, they absolutely should receive it.
More often than not, the word “deserve” is spoken with entitlement. It’s spoken with the sentiment that the world owes us something. Well, in the great scheme of things, not one single person “deserves” anything more than anyone else has or gets.
Deserve used correctly? What SHOULD every human being have claim to regardless of their situation? To never be physically hurt or abused. To never witness violence. To be safe. To be cared for. To live without being afraid. That list is long. Add to it!
Definition? Of superior or best quality; of high or highest grade.
How is this one used every day? I’m fine…. That decision will work out fine…. Your dress looks fine…. Everything is fine….
Having been the recipient of all of the above statements, I can tell you that NONE of them elicit the feeling that you haven’t pissed someone off, that you made the best decision, or that your choice of wardrobe is of superior quality. Most often, they beg the question, “Okay, what’s wrong?”
As far as I’m concerned, “fine” is a non-word. It doesn’t mean anything. At best, it’s a neutral answer to a rote question (How are you? I’m fine.), and in many cases, it conveys something that is exactly the opposite of its definition because we all know it really means this…
We keep using “fine.” But it doesn’t mean what we think it means.
This is a tricky one. And yes, I know it’s two words, not one.
Definition? Something that is expected or required to occur.
How do we use it? You are supposed to save the cake until last!…. Couples are supposed to stay married forever!…. You’re not supposed to say things that might hurt someone’s feelings…. Moms aren’t supposed to swear (which is total BS, by the way, unless your kids are very young —and even then, “hell” and “dammit” were acceptable for me)
Sort of like “fine,” this is a phrase that doesn’t really mean anything. “Not supposed to” is a non-reason for not doing something.
I’m “not supposed to” eat the cake first? WHY?? I’m “expected” or “required” not to? Who freakin’ says?
YOU decide. You are smart, and you know your own situation intimately (maybe a lot better than you’d like). Be secure in that. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You and your family have your own expectations and requirements.
Lastly, guess what? Those people giving you a slap on the hand with “supposed to’s”? You are not required to take their advice — especially if what they say you are “supposed to” do is something you know is not right for YOU. Me? I ate the cake first.
So…sorry, dictionary definition. None of that “supposed to” stuff is a requirement out here in real life. That phrase does not mean what you think it means.
Definition? Free from bias, dishonesty, or injustice.
How do we use it? One sentence sums it up: That’s not fair!
How many times do we hear it every day, from all directions?
More importantly, how many times do we find ourselves using it? Every single one of us whips this one out on a regular basis. When the light turns red the second OUR car reaches the intersection. When our team loses an important game where (we are certain) the officials missed a crucial call because they were biased against us from the start. When we have the feeling that EVERYONE ELSE gets things that we don’t. Whenever we feel the least bit inconvenienced.
Man, what whiny babies we are!
Whether something is “fair” does not relate to how much effort one person has to put toward obtaining it, versus what another person might have to do. It has no place in an argument about, for example, getting a promotion you worked hard for, and then saw it go to someone else.
Fairness has nothing to do with making the same rules apply to everyone. In fact, the real meaning of being fair is treating each person DIFFERENTLY, according to his or her own situation or circumstances. Fairness is about seeing each situation, and judging each person on their own merits.
Think about that. Is it fair that a visually impaired 12-year-old who wants to enjoy the bumper cars at the amusement park, is NOT ALLOWED to ride in a car with a driver because he is more than six years old (I actually saw this happen, by the way)? Okay, it’s the rule, and people have their reasons for making rules. But is it FAIR, as in free from bias and injustice? What do you think?
The wrong idea of fairness? That everybody is entitled to the same treatment!
At Barr Inc., fair is what is right for each individual person. It’s taking the one kid out for ice cream who has worked her tail off doing chores while leaving two other kids at home—and not feeling ONE BIT BAD ABOUT IT. Why? Because the others did nothing but play XBox and text their friends.
And, if the other two were to utter… “That’s not FAIR!” ?
My reply is always, “Why? She did all that work. Tell me why.”
They have never replied to this, but if they ever do you can be sure I’ll be saying…
“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
Deserve. Fine. Supposed to. Fair.
If nothing else, I hope I’ve said enough to make you think about those words the next time you hear them, or say them.
And you WILL say them. I catch myself all the time.