According to Merriam-Webster the COMMON MAN (PERSON) is defined as: “the undistinguished commoner lacking class or rank distinction or special attributes.”

I don’t know about you, but all the people I know on a first name basis are commoners. They are kids, schoolteachers, nurses, parents, waitresses, engineers, retired people, social workers, writers, programmers, mechanics, librarians … and one is an actuarial mathematician. Not a single one is a famous politician or criminal, TV or movie star, singer or entertainer, admiral or baseball player. When I think about the top-20 people who have been instrumental in my life — 100% are commoners.

I think Noah Webster, and George and Charles Merriam got the definition wrong. Let’s break it down:

Class — I worked for a department head many years ago who had so much class that when he had to fire an employee, he looked the person in the eye and was so straightforward and honest they shook his hand and thanked him on the way out. 

Rank Distinction — my mother, without a doubt, ranks #1 in many regards including communication, organization, loving us kids well and letting us go free.

Special Attributes — one professor in college, in the space of short interchanges on three consecutive Fridays, tipped me into taking full responsibility for my study habits and grades, and that took me all the way through graduation and into the work world.

In my retirement years I’m spending more time doing creative writing and self-publishing. Sometimes I tell people that my writing goal is to be famous posthumously. That usually gets a laugh. But now that I’ve thought about it a bit more, I’ve decided I’d rather be common posthumously. That way I’ll be in good company.

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