I don’t know any martyrs. Historically, there are plenty to choose from, but in the context of “real life,” I don’t know any.

I’m not a martyr. Not even close. Whatever sacrifices I have made on behalf of my beliefs, they never came anywhere near martyrdom. Discomfort or disruption to your normal life does not make you a martyr. Taking care of your kids, working at jobs you don’t like, or struggling to survive? None of these make you a martyr.

This is one of those greatly overused words, along with “awesome,” “resonate,” and the ubiquitous “back in the day.”


How many times have I read “I’m a martyr to housework.” Really? What strange belief system do you follow?

You are not a martyr, even if you are depressed and miserable. If merely being miserable were enough for martyrdom … well … who wouldn’t be one? These days, there are an awful lot of thoroughly wretched people and if you don’t believe me, read a few columns in Facebook and count the whining, pathetic chorus.

In the “not a martyr” category, I assure you that neither your father, mother, or any of your friends were or will be martyrs. Even if they served in the military or worked in a coal mine.

English is a wonderful, rich language. We have millions of words. Which means the language has a special word for pretty much everything.  “Martyr” is a specific term, often used incorrectly to mean “dedicated,” “dutiful,” “honorable,” “generous,” or “self-sacrificing.” Unless you are in jail and likely to die for your political or religious beliefs, you are not a martyr nor will you be.

Dedicating your life to a cause doesn’t make you a martyr. On the other hand, if they kill you because of your faith and dedication, then you have achieved the basics of martyrdom. Remember though. The bad guys can torture you, but unless they really kill you, you don’t get the full title.

I’d last about 10 seconds under torture. The threat alone would make me spill my guts. I guess I’m lucky I don’t know anything important enough to kill me for, eh?

So, in the name of keeping us all sane, if you have a dark secret, spare us both a problem and keep it to yourself. Please.

Categories: Humor, Words

Tags: , , ,

26 replies

  1. Gordon was a former pastor of mine until he retired. I returned to your page – not been all that active lately, to see what was said here. Funny, how a word keeps getting used, but how its meaning can almost be lost. Take care, and Happy New Year.


    • In the case of “martyr,” I think the original meaning has been almost lost, except among religious people.

      I’ve only met Gordon online, but he’s a smart guy and sometimes, a very funny one who can make you smile while making a point. I’m always flattered that he follows me.

      Isn’t it interesting all the connections we make online. You knew him, then me. We can draw lines between ourselves to where we discovered someone. I remember someone complaining that we were all a “pack of bloggers” like a clique. i realized no, we aren’t a clique. It’s just that we all have links through other people. We have connection to each other. Which I think is really a plus, like having bunch of friends and meeting new people via old friends.


  2. Reblogged this on Views from the Edge and commented:
    Marilyn Armstrong’s post on martyrs and not-martyrs brought a few chuckles and nods of the head. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Boy, do I love this! Well, not ‘love’ exactly. Have to search for better-suited words than ‘love’ — you can’t love an essay. But you sure can coo, giggle, and smile with the right-on chicken who wrote it. -:) Love it, Marilyn!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Yes, but “to starve” doesn’t always mean “to die” either. I mean, people say “I’m starving” all of the time but they are not dying, they’re simply hungry. And to starve was, at one time — a very long time ago — literally the only word English had for dying. People starved. It didn’t matter how one died, they starved. Now one can die in any fashion. They can drown, they can asphyxiate, they can have a heart attack, &c… and starving specifically means to die of hunger. Yet people will say that they are “starving” and not be in any danger whatsoever of dying. Language, as always, changes. As much as people do not like it or want it, it will change.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, it will, but martyr will remain for me a very specific thing. I roll with a lot of changes in English. How I use pronouns, for example, has dramatically altered … as well as sentence construction. I have bowed to using adjectives as verbs/ nouns — and deal with alternate meanings to many words. But this one bugs me and it’s not because a word is changing its use — it’s because the people who use it have an attitude about themselves. They think they ARE martyrs if they have to do anything they don’t like. It’s not the word. It’s THEM.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. “I’m a martyr to housework” who on earth would believe that? Even seeking to become a martyr reduces its glory – if glory comes from martyrdom.


  6. So the word martyr has become a martyr for the English language. It’s suffered nearly as painful a death as ironic, ironically…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This would have made an excellent Word of the Day series!

    So, techically then, a UK born citizen who travels to Syria and straps a suicide vest to his or her chest and tries to blow up some ‘westerner’ in the name of Isis and Islam would meet the definition?

    The word has definitely become corrupted.

    It is not alone in that in our language today. 😦


    • Technically, I’m pretty sure self-immolation is NOT martyrdom, but — based on THEIR language and its definitions — I’m not sure. The whole “killing others to fix our problems” is so far out of my mental loop, I’ve never understood it. It’s possible I actually don’t want to get it.

      The French work hard at keeping their language “pure.” I don’t think they’ve had much luck with that, either.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Having that in your mental loop is definitely something no sane person would want – i suspect the real problem is though that some, particularly those less well educated than we, who feel deprived of things seem to believe that there is no better ‘alternative’ and so the sufferring on both sides of whatever issue it is continues unabated.

        I think the idea of any form of actual ‘purity’, be it language, politics, statesmanship or culture, started to disappear toward the end of the 19th century and is now long gone.

        Even virginity is not as pure (or anywhere near as common) as it used to be 😉


  8. You mean you will tell the details of your gingerbread recipe if threatened. No, you are not a martyr, neither am I, although when I manage to leave my bed in the morning I feel like one

    Liked by 1 person

  9. So true– so many words have become so overused in our language (like love) that they have lost some of the meaning.

    Liked by 1 person

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