Do You Feel Lucky?

(and feel free to comment! My older posts are certainly no less relevant to the burning concerns of the day.)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Smart Yourself Up A Bit #1: Add Some Depth to Your Patter - with References

Here's a new recurring feature where I'll give you some tips on how to smart yourself up a bit. That doesn't mean I'm trying to say you're not already plenty smart. Geez, you people - always so sensitive! It's not truly about smarts at all, but about presentation. Plenty of people, even smart people, think I am way smarter than I really am, and do you know why? Because I come across. And more than anything else, it all comes down to a few certain trips and tics I've developed. These tricks and tips, which you you too can use, and which I in this series plan to shape up into shape, and share with you for that purpose! There. Now aren't you glad you weren't offended?

My first Smart Yourself Up A Bit Tip, tip #1 as we're calling it, although it's not necessarily the single most important tip, which we'd need to build up to. But it is a good one to kick off with. So here it is: use references. Interject references into your speech, to class it up a bit with a thoughtful comparison to some artistic or literary work, or some bygone cultural phenomenon.

I stress: references. Not "allusions." Technically yes, "allusions" is exactly what they are, but don't refer to them or even think about them in the context of that word. People who make "allusions" only create the impression that they wasted their college years paying obeisance to an obsolete liberal arts bullshit ideal, wherein "the classics" are studied, and your head ends up filled with a lot of crap about the incomprehensible doings of greek gods and heroes. I never understood why all that crap used to get so much respect - it is the dead-literal equivalent of today's comic book geek subculture. Only perhaps with a little less arguing over whether Apollo could or couldn't kick Ares ass. Well for whatever reason, in the old days your English posh-schooled gentlemanly types could impress each other with their effete and otiose codes, making allusions. "Oh, I tell you Lyle, she was like Euphrosyne and Aglaia rolled into one sweet package - with an ass on her like Terpsichore! I think I'm in love." What a lot of crap. Why not just say it plain, instead of all fancy? Don't waste your time with allusions, you will not impress anyone.

References on the other hand are things any smart person could drop into a conversation, or pick up on, just by virtue of being smart. You can draw references from a wide range of sources. But don't just throw one in from a Tarantino movie. Don't resort to some crap everyone obviously knows, that everyone will get. That doesn't make you look smart! Just shallow and obvious. No, you want to pick a reference that maybe only a few people will get, or better yet, just make something up. The other day, I slipped this gem in while regaling my admirers:

"I'm like that pig in the story: I encompass multitudes."

It went over like clockwork! What pig? What story? Who cares! It's just a great way to make a point, to say something and be able to back it up with a good-sounding reference. Nobody's going to press you for the details.

Suppose I could tell you with 100% accuracy that there's no such pig and no such story, there's never been a pig in a story like that. Does it matter? No! #1 because it doesn't matter, you already look smart just for making the reference. It's a great-sounding reference. And because #2, there should be. Come on! There ought to be a pig like that in a story. It sounds like a great story! And you clearly seem to know the story, and others don't, and they're not going to expose their ignorance to the reference right there in front of everybody, by asking you to tell them the pig story right then and there! Even though they do definitely want to hear the pig story. But even if they did ask, you'd be set on the spot to cut them quick to the chase: "You're missing the point of the story. The pig's not important. It's the multitudes."

It doesn't matter, though. They're not going to risk asking you right then and there. Of course, if somebody corners you later, in a more private setting, wanting to hear more about this pig, just handle it then as you deem to see fit. Make something up. How complicated can it be? There was a pig, and the pig was in a story, and the pig contained multitudes. The end.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

As usual, you bring a smile to my face, like the prince in the song.