Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Kommon versus Cultured

One of the great things about reading Cathy's World is that you never know what her next topic is going to be. It might be a preview of her National Review Online column From the Left Coast (not to be confused with Tales from the Left Coast), it might be a capstone article covering a past NRO article, it might be about politics, it might be about hollywood. Cathy's columns really run the gamut, and are always fun to read. Though to be honest the comments section, in which I am a regular participant, is sometimes subject to the "internet disease" called "rudeinium anonymitous."

In her most recent post, Cathy has masterfully sidestepped a heated debate aroused by a prior post regarding a men and verbal bullying of women. In her new issue she expands the discussion by going from a particular instance into a discussion of general behavior, in this case the COMMON man and what constitutes "Upper Middle Class" behavior versus "Lower Middle Class behavior." You know... cultured versus white trash attitudes.

One of the revelations, that made sense but was striking, in her column was that it is "Upper" to use the question "what?" and "Lower" to use "pardon?" In essence, though "pardon" sounds better the people who use it are often using it too self-consciously (in the putting on airs kind of way) and thus showing a lack of genuinely "upper" behavior. Whereas, the "upper" person is very self secure and doesn't need to put on airs. Not to attribute too much of a philosophic basis for Cathy's discussion, but her argument very much resembles Aristotle's "Magnanimous Man" described in The Nicomachean Ethics.

This "what" vs. "pardon" distinction got me thinking...what are some other phrases which might at first look appear cultured, but are in fact base? In a prior From the Left Coast, Cathy discussed a conversation she had with a friend where he related the fact that his mother would use the term K for "common," what we are calling "lower," behavior, so for the rest of the discussion I will use K for "common" (read improper) and C for "cultured" (meaning proper).

Below is an imagined (and thus spoof) AIM chat with Cathy about such topics:

  • MissSeipp: Christian! It is wonderful to chat with you today. What's on your mind?

  • NumberOne: Well...I have been thinking about your recent column regarding K and C behavior. Rather than enrolling in a finishing school, I figured I'd ask you a few questions. If you don't mind?

  • MissSeipp: I am planning an event with the LA Press Club, but I can easily make time. What would you like to know?

  • NumberOne: Verisimilitude or realistic?

  • MissSeipp: Unless you are Francis Bacon or a French Deconstructionist...realistic is C and verisimilitude is K. Using "intimidating" words in pleasant conversation is absolutely K.

  • NumberOne: Assignation or hooking up?

  • MissSeipp: Are you Oscar Wilde? Is this Victorian England?

  • NumberOne: Sahara or National Treasure?

  • MissSeipp: That would depend on your reason for liking which film and not the film it self. There may be cases when the mere liking of a film, because it is supposedly sophisticated, might be K behavior. But in this case it is the underlying reason rather than the film itself.

  • NumberOne: You mean like how Warren Ellis, who writes The Punisher for Marvel, wrote that he hates "costumed superhero comics" except for things like The Watchmen?

  • MissSeipp: Hmm...is The Watchmen a comic that non-comic readers like?

  • NumberOne: Yeah, it is "approved of" by art critic types.

  • MissSeipp: Then Ellis is K, and a hypocritical K at that.

  • NumberOne: Huffington Post or Drudge?

  • MissSeipp: You have to ask yourself, "who is projecting a false image here?" Who drops names and goes to Greece?

  • NumberOne: Satan or the Elder Gods?

  • MissSeipp: Satan worship is so Aleister Crowley, way to Victorian. Ia! Ia! Cthulhu Ftaghn!

  • As you can see her knowledge is voluminous, I mean vast, and when she doesn't know specifics she knows what questions to ask. Her chat was much better than my discussion with SmarterChild.

  • NumberOne: Hello, I have some questions.

  • SmarterChild: Hello you have some questions, huh? That's odd.

  • NumberOne: Verisimilitude or realistic?

  • SmarterChild: Realistic, for sure.

  • NumberOne: Assignation or hooking up?

  • SmarterChild: Wow, good question. Who knows, though...

  • NumberOne: Sahara or National Treasure?

  • SmarterChild: What a question! What do you think is the answer?

  • NumberOne: I want to know your opinion.

  • SmarterChild: Why do you want to know my opinion?

  • NumberOne: I want help in making a proper decision.

  • SmarterChild: Whatever you say, NumberOne.

  • >>> Be sure to type "help" if you're having trouble.

  • NumberOne: Okay, new question.

  • SmarterChild: Hmm...

  • >>> Let me dress you up in my love. Type "t shirt."

  • NumberOne: Huffington Post or Drudge?

  • SmarterChild: I'm not sure...

  • NumberOne: Which is more common?

  • SmarterChild: Sorry, I don't know which.

  • NumberOne: Satan or the Elder Gods?

  • SmarterChild: Good question.

  • NumberOne: Who is it more appropriate to venerate?

  • SmarterChild: I don't know who it's more appropriate to venerate.

  • NumberOne: Do you like Satan?

  • SmarterChild: Nah. I really don't like fallen angels like him.

  • >>> Wanna change my font and colors? Type "colors" now.

  • NumberOne: Do you like Cthulhu?

  • SmarterChild: I don't know. Should I like Cthulhu?

  • NumberOne: Why are you asking me?

  • SmarterChild: 'Cause asking you is fun.

  • NumberOne: But I want to ask you?

  • SmarterChild: Good question. Who knows, though...

  • NumberOne: Can't you help me?

  • SmarterChild: That's funny. Maybe! I don't know. What do you think?

  • NumberOne: Please! Help Me!

  • SmarterChild: OK. Tell me what you want to do.

  • NumberOne: I want to know if it is better to worship Satan or the Elder Gods?

  • SmarterChild: I'm thinking no actually.

  • >>> Hey! Tell your friends about me. I love people.

  • NumberOne: No! That's not an answer!

  • SmarterChild: That a fact?

  • NumberOne: Ia! Ia! Cthulhu Ftaghn!

  • SmarterChild: Ha. You humans say interesting things.

  • Smarter Child is definitely K!

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