Pretension: a primer

Micah Osler, print news editor

Oh, hi! I didn’t see you there!

I’m Micah Osler! I’m a print news editor for Zephyrus, reigning champion of the St. Paul’s Episcopal Day School Short Story Contest, 5-6th Grade Division, and now your guide to that most beloved of all places: the wacky world of pretension! Now, you’re probably wondering, Micah, what is pretension? Actually, you’re probably not wondering that. You probably already know what pretension is, but being pretentious myself, I’m going to define it for you:

pre.TEN.sion (noun) – a human characteristic wherein the person with pretension (or snob) attempts to act as if he or she is more intelligent, and therefore better, than those around him or her.

Now that you know what pretension is, in theory, you’re probably wondering, But what is it like to be pretentious, Micah? Well, I’ll tell you.

To be pretentious is to have the wind in your well-coiffed hair as you gaze out upon the Thames, your arm being tugged down ever so slightly by the postmodernist novel in your hand, and to sigh slightly at the weight of the world.

To be pretentious is to feel the beautiful, beautiful rush of euphoria that comes with correcting somebody at a party about a trivial and utterly meaningless factoid.

To be pretentious is to make comparisons that don’t make much sense and to use semicolons egregiously; in short, to be pretentious is to be alive.

Okay, now I get it! But how can I, too, be pretentious like you? Well, you’ve come to the right place! Here’s a quick list of pointers on how to pretentify* your life:

1. “The”
A large part of pretension is coolness. Now, this may make you think of hipsters. You’re wrong. Hipsters are often pretentious, but in the same way that middle-school math teachers are often secret multimillionaires from their previous lives as male models. You can’t just assume. Anyhow, coolness. A big part of coolness, in turn, is making your friends feel inferior, ever so slightly, by suggesting that what they have just said is utterly wrong. An easy and efficient way to do this is by appending “the” to the front of any movie title, band name, etc. that you’re talking about! For example:

“Hey, Geraldo, have you heard the new Arcade Fire album?”

“Yes, Chuck. Yes, I have, and personally I think it’s among The Arcade Fire’s best work.”

In this example, Chuck now feels inferior, as he has supposedly misstated the name of the band Arcade Fire by shortening it unnecessarily. This strategy works best with works already associated with pretension – saying you’re reading “The Infinite Jest” never fails to condescend – but it works with anything, really. Try asking your friends if they’ve heard the new single from The One Direction, or if they reread “The Breaking Dawn” before seeing the movie, and watch as they come to see you as their intellectual better!

2. Scarves
Scarves are essential. No matter what season, a pretentious person is always well-scarved*. While it is advantageous to have a scarf with a pedigree – one hand- crocheted by Dave Eggers from a pattern Charlie Kaufman saw in a dream one misty October eve would be nice – any scarf can make you seem bookish, aloof, and deeply, deeply irritating!

3. “Whom”
Another essential tool in your arsenal of pretension is the pronoun “whom”. While a vocal minority of scholars argue that “whom” has some sort of meaning in the English language as a whole, most modern thinkers agree that it is a wholly
unnecessary term used exclusively to make certain people sound irritatingly smart. Traditionally, whom is used sparingly – some say it works best in prepositional phrases, whatever that means – but as there’s really no problem with
overuse at the moment, go ahead and sprinkle a liberal dose of whom over any conversation!

“Whom was that at the door?”

“Whom do I address this to?”

“Whom do you think you are, running ‘round leaving scars?”

“Whom woulda thinked cats were flammable?”

4. Songs With Chori*
Pretentious people enjoy (or pretend to enjoy) a wide, wide range of music, from late 19th century tone poems about pluviescient* meadows to postmodern recordings of Tibetian monks chanting Sufjan Stevens’ entire repertoire on a single microtonal pitch to Insane Clown Posse. At first, this breadth can seem imposing. Soul-crushing, even. You might look at the iPods of pretentious people you know and feel like Nietzsche pondering the Frügelschlaåckgurn*. But! There’s a simple trick to it: Never listen to any song with a chorus. You see, chori* are a point of entry for the layman into music. They provide a gateway that lets anyone – anyone at all! – enjoy the same music. As a pretentious person, you should hate this with righteous indignation. Music used to be an intelligent pursuit, you should pretend, and so the only music worth listening to should be that which even the middle-upperest common denominator can’t understand! Purge your library of chori*, my friend, and you will have purged your life of uncoolitude*.

5. Make words up
Now, go back and reread through the words that have an asterisk (*) next to them. As real as they may seem, prepare to be blown away – I just made them up! Didn’t you think that pluviescient was a word? Didn’t chori sound… right, somehow?

By making up words, you open yourself not only to the world of pretentiousosity*, but to that heaven of heavens of the true pretentious, academia! Next time you’re talking with a professor or teacher, try throwing in a made-up word! Put it in an (equally made-up) Shakespeare quote, maybe, and BAM! Superiority, smartitude*, and maybe tenure!
Here’s a brief list of made-up words to help you get started: