Saturday, 29 November 2014

Ghastly snobs

The fashionable insult right now is "snobbish". Any reference to anyone less well-off or less fortunate than yourself, however innocent or well-meaning, is likely to bring cries of snobbery raining down from all sides.

The most visible victim recently was Emily Thornberry, the Labour MP who tweeted a picture of a nondescript house with a white van outside and was widely vilified for her disgusting snobbery, even though she made no comment on the photo other than "Image from Rochester".

Big-name politicians are now terrified they'll be accused of snobbery, elitism and being "out of touch with the ordinary voter" - if there's any such thing as an "ordinary voter". They're falling over themselves to be seen quaffing a pint, scoffing a bacon sarnie or puffing on a furtive fag.

I've been accused of snobbery myself on occasion, which always baffles me as my awareness of poverty, disadvantage and crap jobs is prompted entirely by my loathing of inequality and injustice and in no way implies that I feel superior or conceited about my own more fortunate circumstances.

But dismissing someone as a snob is a handy quick-win, a way of slickly discrediting them and implying that everything they say is fed by some impure motive. It's also instantly intimidating, because nobody likes to be seen as a snob, even if they are.

The term snob should be aimed at genuinely snobbish behaviour, like being rude to shop assistants or sneering at someone's poor grasp of English, and not mindlessly lobbed at anyone with a few quid to spare.

Let's go for the real snobs, not the imaginary ones.

43 comments:

Helen Devries said...

While in France my husband was called a snob (behind his back) when he refused an invitation to a barbecue held by someone he had never met delivered via a third person some hours before the event....
Says more about the insecurity of the person concerned than about my husband.

Nick said...

Helen: I quite agree. Is barbecue attendance now compulsory?

Cynthia Springer said...

Oh dear! I was a snob in the 50s (1950s that is). It felt right & was fashionable. By now I've done a complete turnaround. Except I'm not accepting the swarms of Mexicans coming into the U.S. now. I guess that's not a complete turnaround.

susie said...

I don't qualify as a snob by your definition. But then again I look down at garage sales and I really want a manicure...does that make me a snob?

Nick said...

Cynthia: My parents were also pretty snobbish in the 50s. Which is why they sent me to private schools. I would probably have been quite happy at the local state schools. I was too young to be a snob in those days.

I read regularly of the controversy around Mexican immigrants in the US. Is it really the massive problem people say it is?

Nick said...

Susie: I suppose it depends on why you dislike garage sales. Do you dislike the people who run them or do you just think the stuff on offer is mainly trash? I guess the first might qualify as snobbery....

And what could be snobbish about wanting a manicure? It's every woman's basic right, ha ha.

CheerfulMonk said...

I have a feeling anyone looking at my nails would have a hard time not feeling superior. :D

Nick said...

Jean: I take it you're also overdue for a manicure then?

Wisewebwoman said...

Maybe it's just me but I feel that writing about it is equivalent to thou art one?

I could be accused of intellectual snobbery but that's about it. Which means I must feel intellectually inferior.

Snobbery is merely a veneer for insecurity.

XO
WWW

Nick said...

www: Surely not? In that case, virtually everyone is a snob!

I was also thinking about intellectual snobbery. I guess if you're aware that someone else isn't as smart, that's okay. But if you look down on them for it, that's snobbery.

And I think you're right that it's fuelled by insecurity.

CheerfulMonk said...

I've never had a manicure, so after all these years, yes, you can say I'm long overdue. :D

Nick said...

Jean: Well, join the club, I've never had a manicure either!

Ursula said...

Come off your high horses, Cheerful Monk and Nick: You may have never HAD a manicure (administered) but, surely, you have given yourself the odd one over the years?

Being a snob and insecure at the time does not make a correlation. The most lovely and, at the same time, frightful snobs are securely anchored within themselves - if you weren't you couldn't carry it off.

Show me a person who claims to not be a snob (as defined 'looking down my nose at others") in even a tiny little sphere of their lives and I'll show you a self deluded, preening curtain twitcher.

And then there is the delightful visual depiction of a snob: Namely that they "turn up their nose". Indeed, that is what snobs do. They turn up their nose. And so, once upon a time, a fairly uneducated boorish ill mannered father "turned up" his nose at his daughter's stupid little friend (that's me - the friend) unable to make out his dialect. Oh the shame of it. So, you see, Nick, snobbery works both ways. Or maybe he just ridiculed me (so much more evil than snobbery, don't you think)? And maybe, the example you give at the checkout, is just plain ill manners?

Anyway, to discuss "snobbery" in class ridden Britain is like shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic. It'll get you nowhere.

U

Nick said...

Ursula: Not sure I agree about insecurity. Surely someone with a strong sense of security wouldn't feel the need to be snobbish?

Yes, you could probably find some snobbery lurking in me somewhere if you looked hard enough. But really, on the whole I accept people for what they are and have no urge to turn up my nose at them.

You're right about it working both ways. I've experienced plenty of intellectual, social and educational snobbery myself. I'm definitely not from the top drawer, as they say.

And yes, how true that snobbery is so rife in Britain that discussing it is largely whistling in the wind.

Nick said...

Some people seem to equate distaste with snobbery. But just because someone dislikes my face, or my accent, or my opinions, doesn't mean they're snobs. It might just mean there's something about me they find unattractive.

Cynthia Springer said...

"I read regularly of the controversy around Mexican immigrants in the US. Is it really the massive problem people say it is?"

Yes Nick as long as they swam over here. We're already called New Mexico. Soon we'll be The Other Mexico. My best friend moved to Mexico City. She says that if all the illegals were sent back, Mexico would have a Revolution.

CheerfulMonk said...

U,
So what exactly is a manicure? I clip my nails to keep them short --- and to get rid of the occasional hang nail, and I wash my hands regularly. What more does one need?

Nick said...

Cynthia: So does the huge number of Mexican immigrants have a negative effect on your own life?

Jean: Good question. Perhaps someone who has regular manicures can tell us what the benefits are....

CheerfulMonk said...

U,
When you use the phrase "get off your high horses," does than mean you're thinking in terms of better/worse, superior/inferior rather than just different people like different things?

Secret Agent Woman said...

What a funny set of tangents in the commentary. Which is one of the most interesting things about blogging.

I think the perception of snobbery depends on where you are in relation to someone. I've heard people accused of snobbery for any number of minor preferences and also seen people who genuinely seem to look down on nearly everyone else. It's an unpleasant habit, to be sure, as is accusing others of it.

As to the tangents: My definition of having a manicure is going to a salon and having someone else file and buff or paint your nails. I've never had that done, but primarily because I'd rather spend my money other ways and painting my own nails is easy enough. I also don't go get my hair done/cut. But I will happily (on occasion) drop some money on a massage or a good dinner out. I'm glad no one else gets to decide which things we should splurge on.

And finally, not everyone is in agreement that the "swarms" of Mexicans are a huge threat. They are our neighbors hoping to find a better life. With the exception of Native American tribes, we ALL started as immigrants in this country. Some of us still take pride in being the great melting pot.

Nick said...

Jean: I assume Ursula means acting better or superior, which is how I would take the phrase.

Agent: I know, some fascinating threads here! I agree, snobbery is very much a matter of perception. Someone may not have a snobbish bone in their body but some chance remark will be seen by others as outrageous snobbery.

As you say, once upon a time most Americans were immigrants seeking a better life so it's rather unfair (to say the least) to condemn others for having the same aspirations. Britain is currently gripped by an alarming level of anti-immigration hysteria.

CheerfulMonk said...

Nick,
So why would someone think another person was feeling superior when they say they've never had a manicure?

Nick said...

Jean: Ha ha! Well, yes, why would they? It just proves the point that supposed snobbery is very much a matter of perception.

kylie said...

if my mother said she never had a manicure she could very well be saying it snobbily

Ursula, for the first time ever i have to disagree and i am sorry to do so but, in my opinion, snobbery is a particularly obnoxious form of insecurity

Nick said...

Kylie: That might easily be a generational thing. I doubt if my mother has ever had a manicure either, and she would definitely say so in a snobbish fashion.

I'm glad you agree that snobbery is very much rooted in insecurity.

Ursula said...

@Cheerful Monk: We have been here before: Inverse snobbery!

Let the Urban Dictionary define "inverse snobbery" since you appear to believe in quotes more than an original thought:

"Thinking you are better than other people because you are working class, have a regional accent, don't use big words, read tabloid papers, or for other reasons which are opposite to those which would be involved in 'snobbery' in the usual sense."

Or, in your case, you don't have a manicure (though you do - even if perfunctory and done by yourself), you have never worn makeup, you never this you never that. You tell us you have better things to do than to cook, then get all sniffy in wake of an innocent remark of mine and ask me whether I think myself superior because I enjoy cooking (and eating). Now WHO is insecure?

Since we are on a point of reckoning (please forgive me, Nick, to use up your space): You never omit to mention your roots in Stanford University. What I am supposed to do with that constant reminder? Line the street and take my hat off to you?

Snobbery, one up manship, arrogance and other foibles come in many guises and even more degrees. And may no one but no throw stones (at others).

U

Ursula said...

My dear Kylie, as to your mother never having had a manicure and telling the world about it in a snobby manner please do see reference to 'inverse snobbery" in my reply to Cheerful Monk.

On insecurity and snobbery we have to resolve to disagree. There is, no doubt, snobbery born of insecurity. However, a REAL snob's innate confidence is unshakable.

U

Rummuser said...

Whatever will you think of me I wonder! I am a great practitioner of that lost art, reverse snobbery.

Nick said...

Ursula: I shall leave Jean and Kylie to respond!

Ramana: I would say I'm not an inverse snob either. I never went to university, have never had a career, have never had a high salary, and spent many years working in shops, but I don't see any of that as somehow better than a more conventional and more "successful" life-history.

kylie said...

Ursula!
1.I bow to you for tackling the inverse snobbery which is in existence here. and so often.

2. maybe you are right about real snobbery being born of security. I am personally very well acquainted with the inverse type, much less so with the real

3. ramana, if you displayed even a microgram of inverse snobbery i would detect it in a heartbeat so stop with that nonsense immediately ;)

CheerfulMonk said...

Sorry Ursula, you still don't get it. You assume just because a person says they do a certain thing, you assume that they think their way is better. Can you not imagine a different alternative? Like different people like different things?

CheerfulMonk said...

Great post, Nick! You did get responses. I especially liked your line,

"But dismissing someone as a snob is a handy quick-win, a way of slickly discrediting them and implying that everything they say is fed by some impure motive."

Amen to that!

CheerfulMonk said...

Ramana,
I'm MUCH better than you are. You're just a reverse snob. According to Ursula I'm both a snob (because I mentioned once I was the first person in my family to go to college) and an inverse snob, because I said I've never had a manicure. Let's see if you can beat that! :D

CheerfulMonk said...

And, R, I'll bet my motives are lot more impure than yours are. ;)

Secret Agent Woman said...

Nick, this commentary reminds me of an image I use to help patients understand narcissistic people And narcissism is at the root of snobbery). Do you have Dairy Queens or other ice cream places that sell soft serve ice cream cones dipped in chocolate? The chocolate chills immediately to form a perfect, glossy coating. Looks impervious. But one little crack and the whole thing starts falling apart, revealing the gushy ice cream inside. I think snobs have that sort of fragile self-esteem and that's why they are so judgmental of others.

Nick said...

Agent: That sounds like what we would call a choc ice - a very good metaphor. As you say, the glossy coating can crack very easily and then the messy interior comes splurting out. The apparent self-confidence is wafer-thin.

CheerfulMonk said...

A bit of trivia--- Russell Stover, founder of Russell Stover candies, is credited with figuring out how to make chocolate shells that harden when poured on ice cream.

Yay, internet and blogging! I would have been deprived of that piece of useless information if I hadn't recently written a post about candy.

That is a great analogy, Agent.

Nick said...

Jean: My eternal thanks to Russell Stover for his great invention! I love choc ices. Of course chocolate snobs wouldn't be seen dead with a choc ice....

Bijoux said...

I am a snob about things like food and wine. Material goods and people, not so much.

Nick said...

Bijoux: Interesting point. I like good-quality food and wine and I don't understand people who, to my mind, consume the most amazing crap. I believe what I consume is better than what they consume. So yes, I guess I'm a food and wine snob too.

*somewhat non-plussed*

Nick said...

How about that, Ursula and Kylie? I've discovered my snobbish streak....

kylie said...

so?

Nick said...

Kylie: So nothing in particular.