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TV Tropes Monday: Feigning Intelligence

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We all met someone who pretended (or pretends) to be smarter than they really are. Admit it, you (and I) have found ourselves in a situation where we want to sound as smart if not smarter than the rooms average IQ.

Denizens of TV Tropes land call that Feigning Intelligence.

It comes in multiple forms:

  • Person is so stupid, he thinks he is clever: Folks like these use big words because to them they sound smart and therefore they think they are smart. To everyone else it sounds like gibberish. It just goes to show how stupid they really are.
  • Parrot speak: You know your way over your head, have no clue whatsoever what is going on, but you don’t want to stick out so you start parroting whatever the speaker says.It sounds smart to you, and everybody is nodding their heads (even if you have no idea why they are nodding.) A classic bluff with a limited useful life, the longer you use it, the more likely someone will catch on. Can turn any situation into a chorus of idiots when everybody parrots the same concept over and over again because everybody else is using it (and nodding) and NOBODY has a clue of what it really means. Commonly found in Friday afternoon meetings of corporate middle managers.
  • Wall of Verbiage: A common tactic used by a certain breed of internet trolls who throw up a wall of quadruple syllabic words (i.e. big words known to have four or more syllables, not to be confused with words with four or more letters) to confuse their forum opponents and garner accolades from partisan/ideological idiots, I mean compatriots. Also used by professionals in any field dominated by jargon (doctors, lawyers, academia, the military) to highlight their specialization and sound smarter than the non specialist. This tactic fails when the listener/reader translates the verbiage into simpler language and finds out that its all bullpucky.
  • You Keep Using That Word: And it doesn’t mean what you think it means.  Very common in the dank political regions of the interwebs where words like fascism, socialism and sharia are tossed about. Most users don’t have a clue what those words mean, but use them because they think it denotes a negative quality attached to their political opponents. Very common in people that overuse a certain term because they think it denotes their higher intellect yet the word doesn’t mean what they think it means or doesn’t work in a given situation.
  • Amateurish Historian: Not to be confused with amateur historian, this brand of fool has, for ego boosting reasons, chosen a particular discipline (be it history, literature, politics, economy) to study. Sounds great, except that they chose material that instead of challenging their prejudices, confirm them. Then they proceed to quote said material as proof of that they are right and you are wrong. Many times the source material is outdated, controversial, poorly researched (if at all) or so biased as to be useless. The amateurish historian NEVER reads critiques of his chosen sources and always dismisses them simply because they clash with his world view. To make matter worse they also tend to use a combination of Wall of Verbiage, Parrot Speak and You Keep Using That Word.
  • Hypercorrection: Used by people that think they know better (and should) but don’t. Simply put, it is an attempt to correct a given word or phrase in common use with a new form that doesn’t make any more sense than the first one. Since most expressions of this sort are completely meaningless outside their cultural reference, any change to them is equally as meaningless.  For specific examples, see this.
  • Common Usage vs. Dictionary Definition: Over time words change meaning, since meaning of a word (also known as a symbol) comes from common agreement of the word users. If enough people accept a particular meaning then that it what the word/term/symbol means. Not to be confused with how the Amateurish Historian attempts to redefine reality to fit their narrow world view or those who grab hold of a word and over use it (doesn’t mean what you think it means). This is the natural evolution of a concept, it may have started as an error, but over time it became fact. Where the fool fails is in either insisting in using one definition over the other (usually the dictionary or academical definition) or uses the common usage without acknowledging that it may not be the sole definition of the word, or the most appropriate.

So there you have it, no one can make us bigger fools than ourselves.

Because what you are really doing is bullshitting and that is always bound to fail


One comment on “TV Tropes Monday: Feigning Intelligence

  1. […] The Dark Side of Self-Publishing – Don’t pay for what you should be getting pay for. Mon- TV Tropes Monday: Deigning Intelligence -Trying to sound smarted than you are is not a good way to go through life. Tue- Urban Fantasy: […]


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