If you have ever heard someone say, “You know, it is actually whom,” then you are well-versed in the wild and wacky world of pseudo-intellectuality. Being smart is difficult. It requires hours of reading, writing and the occasional soliloquy — I do not actually know what this word means, but it certainly sounds smart — you see, appearing smart is much easier than being smart. In fact, appearing intelligent is no more difficult than doing a magic trick at a party. But, like most magic tricks, you run the risk of making everyone hate you. This is why I am here — to unpack the art of smart.
So, let us begin.
Think of the most recent dinner party you attended. Oh, you have not attended a dinner party recently? Oh, we are only 20 years old? Alright, scrap that. Imagine the last time you spoke with someone more important than you: Think of job interviews, your parents’ friends, Senator Dianne Feinstein, etc. Discussions with such individuals are a perfect time to talk about things of which you barely know. However, nodding at jargon and basking in the light of perfectly veiled ignorance can be a challenge. That is why I have compiled a brief list of vocabulary words that I am pretty sure have no actual meaning. They simply exist to make you sound smart. Read on and false dichotomy your learning:
- “Kristen Gillibrand”
- “The 17th century”
- “Academy Award winner Jean Dujardin”
But beyond simply employing these conversation stimulants — contact a linguist if conversation lasts longer than four hours — what else can you do?
Here are a few ways you can make sure your conversation flows like the great waters of the Klamath River.
Tip 1: Mention geography — doodling for cartographers.
Simply put, always mention geography. If you have heard of it, it is ample fodder for high-culture conversation. Perhaps you recently read about the great Gobi Desert of China, or even the adequate Strait of Hormuz. Fantastic! Mention these faraway places throughout conversation in order to make yourself look more cosmopolitan and well-traveled.
Tip 2: Employ the light chuckle — life’s exclamation point!
Imagine you have found yourself in an awkward moment of conversational repartee. Perhaps you misheard your partner or maybe he or she confused Montauk with South Hampton. Intellectuality note: anyone who mistakes a basic fact regarding the Hamptons must be flogged; this is a basic tenant of pseudo-intellectuality. Who could forget the time Jackie Onassis publicly caned Lily Pulitzer for confusing Sag Harbor Inn with Gurney’s? The Bridgehampton Monitor certainly did not, but I digress.
There is one way to make it out of such a conversational entanglement. Simply take a firm breath from the bottom of your diaphragm and proceed to insert two strong guffaws into the conversation. It is an age-old trick dating from the times of Christ. As noted in the Gospels, “Christ was then propositioned by Pontius Pilate, ‘Do you proclaim yourself the son of God?’ Unto which Christ chuckled, gave a light wave, and responded, ‘Cut. It. Out.’” That bit of advice is actually from the little-known “Gospel of ‘Uncle Joey,’” a Miller-Boyett Production. The rest is history.
Tip 3: Reference the film “Casablanca.”
Why watch many films when a single one will do the job? The 1942 dramatic romance, “Casablanca,” starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, is all you need to secure your place in the faux-gold halls of pseudo-intellectual nirvana. The film has everything: a foreign location, a handful of catchphrases and airplanes. Intellectual people love airplanes. If you take away nothing else from this article, remember that smart people love airplanes. Here is an example of a deft use of “Casablanca.”
“Steve, I’m leaving you.”
“Steve, I’m still leaving you.”
Boom. Intellectual catnip.
With these tips and tricks, you will be ready to take on any Manhattan dinner party with panache. Just remember to refer your similarly socially addled friends back to me. To affability and beyond!
Alex Mitchell is a junior in the College. HIGH-FUNCTIONING FAILURE appears every other Friday.