Ben Harper

So excuse me Mr.
but I'm a mister too
and you're givin' Mr. a bad name
Mr. like you

So I'm taking the Mr.
from out in front of your name
'cause it's a Mr. like you
that puts the rest of us to shame
It's a Mr. like you
that puts the rest of us to shame

This song annoys me every single time I hear it. If you put someone to shame it means you're doing better than them, making them ashamed of their own efforts. Given the context of the song, I am entirely certain that that is not what Ben Harper meant when he wrote that. In fact, his choice of phrase means that the chorus says basically the opposite of what the rest of the song says.

Why did you do that, Ben Harper? Why?


  1. That's a common context for usage, but not the actual meaning:
    From the OED:
    12. to put to shame: to bring into disgrace, bring disgrace upon; also fig. to outshine, eclipse. Similarly, to bring, †shape, †turn to shame. Also †to go to shame, to be ruined or spoilt.

    The use you describe is that figurative use, but anything that could be said to shame you could also be described as putting you to shame.

  2. His usage may be technically correct (which, of course, is the best kind of correct), but that's not how that phrase is generally used.