Stereotypes and elitism
Posted by Lissa on July 16, 2010
These two posts by Borepatch and Jay G got me thinkin’ . . . (A dangerous pastime, I know . . .) Only I’m going to approach it from the opposite end that Jay did. I could be wrong, but here’s what I think:
To most casual observers I come off as one of those “smart people”, one of those “elites.” After all:
- I went to a small, elite liberal arts college that often ranks in the top ten liberal arts colleges in America
- I graduated said college cum laude, that is, with a 3.5
- I attained said grade point average while doing very little homework (please note — I’m not proud of this. It’s just a fact)
- I’ve spent three weeks in London
- I’ve sung in at least ten different languages
- I’ve sung such fabulous works as Bach’s Mass in B Minor, Faure’s Requiem, Brahams’ Ein deutsches Requiem, and the full Messiah (and poor Mike had to listen to the whole Messiah – he really, really loves me)
- My reading tastes are notoriously eclectic. Books that I’ve read at least ten times include everything from Stranger in a Strange Land to The Hunt for Red October to Atlas Shrugged to Jane Eyre.
- I can make conversation with anyone. ANYONE
- I can speak in a British accent. (Or cockney. I can sort of do Irish or Scottish, but not well.)
- I’m verbally “quick on my feet” (yes, that mixed metaphor was on purpose. Because it amused me)
- I use words like “engender”, “unsolicited”, “therein” and “verisimilitude” on a regular basis. I used the latter three in the last post
And yet . . . and yet . . . the older I get, the less smart I think I am. A few of the reasons I don’t fit/deserve the stereotype of “smart person”:
- I am profoundly historically ignorant. I kind of know who Galileo and Copernicus were; I haven’t the foggiest idea when they lived. 500 AD? 1500 AD? Something like that? Anything prior to the 20th century is up-for-grabs in my brain.
- I am profoundly Biblically ignorant. No, I don’t think we all need to read, let alone believe, the Bible. It’s just embarrassing that I don’t know any of the saints except Peter. In fact, any knowledge of the Bible I have comes from playing a Soul Girl in Jesus Christ Superstar (back in college).
- That thing about the British accent? Well, I didn’t mention my moronic habit of adopting whatever accent I’m hearing. It can be a Southern drawl, a Canadian quip, a prairie twang — if I’m hearing it, I’m speaking it. That’s really fun when there’s a gathering of Ye Olde Liberal Arts College alums in London — ever heard a woman use “big ol’ ” and “y’all” in a British accent? Yeah, didn’t think so.
- I never learned proper grammar. I couldn’t diagram a sentence if my life depended on it. I’m only familiar with present participle and pluperfect because of my years in Spanish class.
- I cannot for the life of me remember names or faces. Unless I’ve spoken with you five times or more, please assume that I don’t remember your name.
- I’ve never read War and Peace. Or A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Or The Moonstone, The Grapes of Wrath, The Jungle, Great Expectations, Hamlet, Pride and Prejudice, Freakonomics, The Wealth of Nations, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and a whole host of others.
- I’ve never changed a tire in my life.
- I can’t sew, knit or crochet worth a damn.
- I mostly cook from recipes.
- I never understood calculus. I got an A in the class by memorizing the types of problems and the subsequent steps to solve them. It never made a lick of sense to me.
- Ditto for chemistry.
- And — oh yeah! I own and shoot guns.
Folks who’ve met me, please feel free to pop up and disagree — but I do think I’m a quick, and witty, conversationalist. I’m usually the one to fill awkward silences and invite quiet group members to speak. A lot of folks assume that, therefore, I’m a very intelligent person.
Verbal acuity and actual knowledge/intelligence are NOT the same thing.
And as in uffish thought she stood,
The Goblin-wock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the front-door wood,
And burbled as it came!
One, two! One, two! NOT through-and-through
My lil’ Siguette went snicker-snack!
The four nine-mil’s quite turned its head
And put him on his back.
Callooh callay, y’all.