Previous: What's the Difference Between A and Z



View count:455,180
Last sync:2024-03-24 03:45


Citation formatting is not guaranteed to be accurate.
MLA Full: "MORTIFICATION." YouTube, uploaded by vlogbrothers, 2 September 2014,
MLA Inline: (vlogbrothers, 2014)
APA Full: vlogbrothers. (2014, September 2). MORTIFICATION [Video]. YouTube.
APA Inline: (vlogbrothers, 2014)
Chicago Full: vlogbrothers, "MORTIFICATION.", September 2, 2014, YouTube, 03:37,
In which John ventures outside to discuss heck takers, hectares, Bill Gates, the foreign minister of Ethiopia, signing books for a crowd of two, and his many mortifications.

Thanks to Alan for the fields of my expertise illustration:

Good morning Hank. It's Tuesday. So, you recently made a video outside, and I was like, "We have outside in Indiana." So, yeah, here I am.

One of my favorite words in English is "mortification". It's also one of my least favorite things to experience, and last week, I was well and truly mortified when I used the word "hectacre", like, 135 times in my video about agriculture in Ethiopia. I said "hectacre", like, one who takes hec when in fact, I meant hectare, meaning one hundred ares, with are being a unit of measure that means one hundred square meters. Now, admittedly, units measuring land area: not among my fields of expertise, but still, I was trying to share with people what I'd learned about how to make more food available to hungry people, but obviously, I knew absolutely nothing because hectacre!

Hank, I've only experienced real mortification a couple times in my adult life, like my first book signing after Looking for Alaska was published was only attended by two people. Now, that was obviously concerning, but it wasn't really mortifying until I was halfway through my reading, and I read a sentence from the book that went, "The only thing worse than having a party that no one attends is having a party attended by two vastly, deeply uninteresting people," thereby managing to insult the only two people nice enough to come to my signing.

Then, a few years later, I was giving a talk to several hundred high school students, none of whom had any idea who I was, and I talked for forty-five minutes. Everyone was laughing a lot. They seemed to be having a great time, and then, finally, I was like, "Are there any questions?" at which point several dozen people raised their hands, which is very unusual, and I was like, "Yeah, yes, do you have a question?" and they were like, "Yeah, Mr. Green, are you aware that your fly is open?" Now, Hank, to be clear, it wasn't that my zipper was down. My fly was open. Like, you could see my underwear. And then, I was like, "No, I wasn't aware that my fly was down." I turned around, I zipped up my fly, I turned back around, and I was like, "Are there any other questions?" Silence.

Wait, have I told that story in a Vlogbrothers video before? Now, I feel a little bit of mortification creeping in again. Blergh. I don't even know what's been in my own videos.

But anyway, back to hectacre. So, Sarah was trying to comfort me and she was like, "You know, nerdfighters don't care that much about this stuff. They're so forgiving and nice. It'll be fine," and she was also like, "Now, no offense, but it's not like that many people outside of Nerdfighteria are going to see your video because, you know, it's about agricultural yields in the developing world. It's not- it's not going to catch fire on Tumblr," and then, of course, within a day, Bill Gates, the head of The World Food Program, and the foreign minister of Ethiopia had all seen the video. Now, they were all very nice about it, but you know that secretly, they were like, "Hectacre?" So, it's one thing to look like a grapefruit in front of Nerdfighteria, Hank; they've come to expect it, but Bill Gates? Mortifying.

Now, when mortification is something that you're doing entirely to yourself, as it was in this instance, there can be something useful about it maybe, like I want to seem like the kind of person who knows a lot about agriculture or the kind of person who can get through a two-person book signing without alienating the audience, and mortification can be your ideas about yourself being challenged by the reality of yourself, and that's not such a bad thing, but when other people try to mortify you, when they say cruel things about you to make you feel embarrassed of yourself or when they read your diary or share pictures that you wish to remain private, that's very different. I don't think anything is gained there, and a lot is lost. Hank, I don't think any of us can navigate the world always having to be our public selves even when in private because I think we'd go mad. Now, God knows I'll never say "hectacre" in a Vlogbrothers video again, but if I can't say it at home, I'm seriously kind of doomed because then I'd lose touch with my real and actual self, which, for all of us, is necessarily different from the selves we project in public. We all act differently in private than we do in school or at our jobs or on Tumblr. Now, Hank, I can't speak for everyone, but I for one wouldn't want to have to be on Tumblr all the time. Well- no, no, no, because my kids don't have Tumblrs. Yet.

Anyway, Hank, if you've learned one thing from being my brother, I hope it is this: hectare! Rhymes with nectar almost. Rhymes with lecture. Not really. Those, by the way, are called slant rhymes, he said confidently, feeling a whisper of doubt. I'll see you on Friday.