Simple or Simple-Minded?

Should we feel insulted if someone has called us simple-minded? What’s in a word?

Perhaps we should feel insulted. For such a simple word, there seems to be a range of definitions!

The word simple by itself means something that is not hard to understand. Yet simple-minded can mean everything from someone who is unsophisticated or naïve to someone who is mentally impaired or lacks the ability to use the powers of reasoning.

Images of several people I know just flash in front of me at this point. One fits one definition of simple-minded and another, a different one. And a third defies definition due to simple-minded behaviors that even the word stupid is almost too mild to cover. This is the kind of incomprehensible behavior where the rest of us say, “What were they thinking?!!” From experiences in your own lives, you all know what I’m talking about.

Some might even refer to the Amish or Mennonite communities as simple-minded but I don’t think that is so. They are a simple people, yes. They are generally a handsome people, in part due to a natural diet free of additives. They are plain but attractive in dress and many in society today might copy a little of their modesty with pleasing results. As one of their members might say, just because they’re different doesn’t mean they’re foolish. They are also well aware of the blessings that come from helping others without expectation of reward.

On a different topic, it may have been a stroke of genius to call a Portland, Oregon financial startup the Simple banking company. Since they are still relative newbies in direct banking, only time will tell if the founders have a simple concept or one that is simple-minded. So far, customers seem to like their “basics” philosophy. And no, I’m not an employee or a customer of theirs, so have no stake in the outcome.

If someone does call us simple-minded, I’d be inclined to take offense myself, unless I know for a fact that individual never had a good command of the English language in the first place. Fortunately, most people want to be pretty sure of the meaning of most words before throwing them around. If not, they look words up in a dictionary or a thesaurus, so they don’t make themselves look simple-minded.

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