How to… Be a Pseudo Intellectual

1. It’s impossible to be a pseudo intellectual without this important ingredient – hot air. See when it comes to being pseudo, it’s not what you actually do (which is fairly negligible); it’s about what you say and how you say it. Being opinionated is a must, as is holding forth with authority on the latest award-winning smart-person type book / movie (actual reading/watching is optional). But at all times remember to be properly dismissive of popular culture (unless you’re using words such as ‘postmodern’ and ‘pastiche’ while discussing it).

2. Which brings us to the second-most essential ingredient – words. We’re not talking about just any words; these words must imbue your pontificating with precisely the right degree of pomposity (see what I did there?) without actually saying anything that can be pinned on you later. When in doubt, pepper your speech with big words that sound vaguely French or Italian. Skilful insertion of references to Foucault or Derrida never hurt either. And always keep up with the pseudo word-fads – for instance, ‘paradigm’ is so 1998.

3. It isn’t just enough to talk right and use the right words – it’s also important to be seen talking at the right places. It’s absolutely essential for the serious pseudo intellectual to be at any cultural event that includes the word ‘avant-garde’ or barring that, ‘experimental’, in its title (art and theatre have particularly high pseudo-quotient). Here’s your rule of thumb – if you can’t really understand it, it’s perfect for you to hold forth on at the next party.

4. Ah parties, swanky, exclusive parties. This is the pseudo intellectual’s natural habitat. Members of the tribe can be observed clustered in groups trying to out-pseudo each other, generally over a glass of wine and tiny hors d’oeuvres with sufficiently obscure names and origins. Pay careful attention to your attire – smart-girl/boy glasses are an immeasurable asset to the newbie pseudo, as are artsy/smart-people clothes such as raw-silk kurtas or tweed jackets.

5. Finally, the secret ingredient that goes into the making of a bonafide pseudo intellectual is boredom. Always remember, displaying bright-eyed, bushy-tailed enthusiasm over anything is a big no-no. Once that studied veneer of world-weariness and been-there done-that ennui is in place, you, my friend, have arrived.

DIVYA KUMAR

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