On Being “Common”

The other day I referred to someone as being “common.” Okay, so that kind of sounds like a bad thing–to be common, I mean. But it’s not and I’ll tell you why.

In my little corner of the world we use the word “common” to describe someone who is down to earth, certainty not pretentious, someone who is just “everyday,” someone you can be yourself around, no matter who you are. No need to put on heirs when you’re around someone who is just plain old “common.” A “common” person has the ability to put others at ease no matter what the circumstance. I have some people like that in my life, and I think it’s a trul wonderful thing.

Sometimes people can feel a little awkward when they find out I’m a published author. I’ll admit that people have been nervous around me in the past, at least until they get to know me. That’s when they find out I’m just an ordinary person (no bells or whistles, no fancy clothes or jewelery) and, well, writing is just something I love to do. I don’t know why. I guess we all have to have something we’re passionate about and why we feel drawn to one thing over another will likely remain a mystery. Some things just are they way they are, no sense trying to analyze them to pieces. Acceptance is a wonderful peace-maker.

As a writer, I like to write about about ordinary people, those unsung people who perhaps never have their stories told, but nonetheless deserve to have them told. We’ve all heard the adage that everyone has a story. Most people seem to believe that about other people’s stories and not their own, as if their story isn’t one worthy of being told.

But we are all important, (and we all have a story, every one of us) yet unimportant at the same time. By that I mean, that not one of us is any more important than the other. What we do for a living isn’t who we are, but simply what we do. Perhaps that’s something we should keep in mind when we’re meeting someone whose work, or life we admire, someone we might even think of as being more important in the world. Deep down we’re all the same—common. What makes us different are our life experiences, and isn’t that absolutely wonderful? To be different, I mean, to be able to share with one another the things that makes us truly unique in the world.

And since words can have a different meaning for all of us, I’m a wee but curious. What are you’re thoughts on being common? In your world is it something good or bad or in between?

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18 Comments

  1. What you call common is what we call down to earth. Common (at least where I grew up) refers to being less than or what some term trashy. Being called common was considered a tremendous insult. It’s been so many years since I’ve heard the term used in reference to people other than “the common man” meaning every day folk, that I honestly don’t know if how others take to being called common. It’s interesting how terms mean different things is certain areas and with various people. This will be interesting to hear others take on this.

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    • Yes, I’ve known that to call someone common was an insult in some places. Now here’s where I might confuse you…or myself. Is there a difference between someone “being common” or calling someone common? Yes, it certainly could be used as an insult when said the right way.. Ha, this sounds complicated. Hmm interesting, as you say, to hear what others have to say.

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      • I don’t know that it makes a difference. Probably just to me because it has been ingrained in my head. If someone is called humble that is not considered a bad thing….oh, how labels make us either smile or cringe!

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  2. angela wilson

     /  December 8, 2014

    I believe we all have something “in common” but I don’t know about being “common”. I prefer the word “unique”. I once heard an adage that I liked that went like this: We are all made of different cloth, but share the same pattern. That, to me, means we are all human but are different or “unique”. And, I, personally, love down-to-earth people. I admire people from all walks of life or profession. I like “kind” people. I like “humble” people. I don’t especially care for egotistical, self-absorbed, mean, or negative people.

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    • Unique is a very unique word, and I quite like it. “I admire people from all walks of life or profession. I like “kind” people. I like “humble” people. I don’t especially care for egotistical, self-absorbed, mean, or negative people.” I think many people would agree with you on that one!

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  3. I haven’t heard anyone called ‘common’ to mean anything other than insulting. I have used the word ‘grounded’ on occasion and ordinary. Interesting conversation.

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    • I’m wondering if I were to add the word “folk” on the end of common, does that change the meaning for you, Tess, if someone is “common folk?” It is interesting the way we derive meaning from certain words and decide whether it is good or bad…I think it’s really just what we’ve been conditioned to think from society and we’re all guilty. There are probably other words out there like that.

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      • You are exactly right, I’m sure. Different ways of looking at things. Common folk may do it, but I’d want to be perfectly clear (if I thought someone might misunderstand). Somehow regular folk, even ordinary people, sound safe to ME. Again, different areas and different folk. 🙂

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  4. I like your post and all the comments it has inspired. This is a bit of a tangent but at work the other day, one of my colleagues raised a few questions in an email. The Chair immediately responded with the comment that it was too early in the process to start asking questions. I like people who ask questions no matter if it’s too early or too late in the process. Talking about the term “common” is a good thing.

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    • Thanks, Laurie. What I do find interesting is the meaning we attach to words, labeling them as good or bad. I wish I could think of some other ones right off the top of my head but nothing’s coming to me. I’ll keep thinking!

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  5. I am married to an Englishman and in his family “common” means low class and is considered an insult. It has old roots of course. My in-laws are kind, down to earth people but I would never call them common. My mom, however used the word “common” in the way you have. She preferred common folk.

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    • I find it so interesting the way we put meaning behind certain words. I didn’t know your husband was an Englishman. That’s interesting. I did know the English considered the use of that word as an insult. You’re mom sounds like my kind of gal! 😉 I guess it’s really what you’re brought up to think, but isn’t it interesting?

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  6. Perhaps it is because we know small communities in the same province, but I understand common. To me it is not an insult. I’ve often called myself a ‘commoner’ and when I feel helpless to change the government (ruling body, aka the kingdom. lol), I call myself a simple peasant.

    Commoner refers to my simple way of life. Perhaps it is from out English ancestors. Being a commoner meant you were of the working class–if I’m correct. And although some may take it as an insult, that’s what I am: of the working class.

    I am common, an average person, a commoner…and a peasant. And frankly, I’m quite happy about this.

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    • Let the commoners of Nova Scotia stick together! I’m not surprised that you “get it.” When I met you last fall I felt as though we’d been friends for years. You do have that ability to put others at ease and I think it’s a wonderful trait… and working class, I’m with you all the way on that one. Being happy is or should be our main objective!

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  7. Laura, the way I understand and use the word ‘common’ in that context is to mean ordinary, nothing outstanding.
    On another note, I was very intimidated and shy when first meeting the author Laura Best, if you recall, but you were so nice, friendly, and encouraging that I came away from your book signing feeling hopeful. And I feel I gained a long-distance friend. I’m grateful for that. 🙂

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    • I’m also grateful to have met you, Lynn! I think you’re coming out of your shell just a little. I was thinking the other day about when Cindy Day came to New Minas. Now that was a funny day!

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      • I was thinking about that, too! Yes, it certainly was funny; people can be very interesting. 🙂 and it so nice to meet Cindy Day.

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  8. I think when I was young I learned that common wasn’t good. Common folk weren’t important enough to listen to, pay attention to, or impress. I can’t think of where I got such a strange attitude. As an adult I know that’s not true, yet I’m always in awe when I meet someone who isn’t common yet believes they are. I look at them and see greatness. They see themselves as normal. I actually love it when that happens. I’m disturbed when I meet someone who believes they are better than normal.

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