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Monday, September 28, 2020

A Reader Question for the Community: Snob - Insult or Compliment?


A Reader Question for the Community 

How many of your readers have been called a snob?  Was it intended as a compliment or insult,  and was it received as a compliment or insult? 

I am called a snob often enough and never take offense.  (I am a conservative looking (if not thinking) New England WASP and I often wonder if that alone is enough for some.)



53 comments:

  1. I've been called one a time or two. I also live in a Western state, where tucking your shirt in is too fancy for work, and lacking visible tattoos makes you "unrelatable," or even difficult to hire!

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  2. I’ve not been called an all-out snob, but rather a snob of something (yarn snob, tea snob).
    I take it as a compliment.

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  3. “You are a New Haven pizza snob.” Those words have been spoken to me.

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  4. “You are a Utah powder snob,” heard here.

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  5. When I was in college I would have been happy to hear something so tame. Mostly it was "you preppy bastard." In later years I have not heard the word but suspect it may have been said or thought -- I read only serious literature, appreciate and am reasonably knowledgeable about wine, and other supposedly snob pursuits.

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    1. Pauvre Sartre! As I am sure all are aware, our dear Satre was born in Paris, France His father, a naval officer, died before Sartre was two years old. Satre's mother and our dear, pauvre Satre returned to her parents' house, where she and her son were treated as "the children." In earlier writings not shared with Muffy, Sartre described his "unnatural" childhood as a spoiled and an unusually intelligent boy. Lacking any companions his own age, Sartre found "friends" exclusively in books. It is therefore of little wonder that our dear, pauvre Sartre has found solace in 'serious' literature, fine wine and, well, at this point in time, undisclosed other adventures. Je suis désolé pour vous.

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    2. What is the point of a comment like this? It doesn’t have anything to do with anything.

      You had a nice post the other day about your kids. I thought here is the first evidence this guy is an actual person. Sure would like to see him more often.

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  6. I am trying to decipher how name calling in any situation is considered appropriate behavior.

    Rudeness was never attractive my my upbringing, nor in my adulthood.

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  7. Never been called a snob, but a few times a whole lot worse.

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  8. Sure, I've been called a snob -- but what, pray, is the alternative?

    To my way of thinking, it ain't pretty.

    Should one just try to look like the poor "casual" slobs you see slouching through airports (and everywhere else too) with no concept of taste, individuality, sophistication, history or high culture?

    And we must also remember that in "Caddy Shack," Rodney Dangerfield's vulgar character accused everyone at the Golf Club of being a snob for rightfully looking down on him. I believe he coined the term "snobitorium" to describe the members.

    Today, I think being called a snob might actually indicate that one actually knows something about life, and how to go through it with a sense of grace and dignity.

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    1. Mr. Reichardt, yes indeed, you are a snob.

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    2. Thank you, Rodney.

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    3. "They" say "snob" as if it's a bad thing!

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    4. In Europe where I live (I am Swiss-American), as in the UK, to be called a "snob" is extremely disparaging and unflattering. To be a snob about something one tends to be a purist or an expert about (like being a "wine snob", a "book snob" or a snob about radio - I only listen to BBC Radio 4 or Classic FM, for example) is a different matter entirely, but to hold oneself in lofty regard over others to the point of excluding them, is seen as pretentious, and snobbery is mostly seen as a smug and contemptuous kind of masking an underlying sense of shame. That is why "snob" is such a derogatory word.

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    5. Thanks, Ole Brumm-I was joking however! Not a snob God forbid about people-having worked most of my life in retail that would be a distinct disadvantage! I'd say I have particular ideas about the way I like to live but never at the expense of making anyone feel uncomfortable or hurting anyone's feelings. I'm unaware of having any underlying sense of shame and would just as soon not go there!

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  9. I’ve never been called an out-and-out snob, but I have been called a snob of something in particular. A beer snob, a beer glass snob, a pub snob, a tea snob. I take it as a compliment and even play on it to further reinforce the perception! I've been known to drink certain beers from champagne flutes.

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    1. I am a Champagne Snob for certain. I would never drink a fine Champagne out of a flute. One must use a larger bowl to enjoy the nuances of a Great wine, that just happen to have bubbles.


      David J Cooper

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  10. Being a snob to me means a vulgar display of feigned superiority, flashing stereotypical status symbols, a lack of humility and looking down on others based upon a deep rooted insecurity. Being called a snob is never a compliment in that context although the "snob" would probably take it as one. Snobbery nor gentility is reserved for the wealthy, WASPs or old New England money. Anyone who puts on airs, feels as though they fit nicely into a certain stereotype favored by social strivers and can’t laugh at themselves is likely an insufferable snob.

    Being a self-proclaimed snob of something like coffee or pizza, as mentioned above, is entirely different and in good fun.

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    1. @Averyl: Hear! Hear! I wholeheartedly agree. I'd erroneously been called a 'snob' in my younger years, because of the way I dress and because, being a tad introverted, I probably didn't appear approachable and there was the mistaken assumption by others that I thought I was better than my peers. I agree with @Bernie who says that 'you cannot dress as a snob...you can only act like a snob'. And a snob really is someone who believes he/she is much better than everyone else. The origin of the word, arguably comes from the Latin 'sine nobilitate' ('without nobility'), which is bad enough because it favours the nobility, however its folk etymology also comes from the 18th-century English slang word for 'cobbler' (according to Oxford anyway), meant to imply someone 'of low rank or status' who aspires to 'imitate those of higher social standing'. Both propositions are distasteful, so it indeed is never nice to be a snob, or to be called one. I certainly do not think that because I dress differently/traditionally and have certain tastes, that I am better than anyone. They are merely personal preferences for the way I wish to live.

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  11. You cannot dress as a snob. You can only act like a snob.

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    1. Well said. I would add that snob is an insult by definition:

      "One who blatantly imitates, fawningly admires, or vulgarly seeks association with those regarded as social superiors. One who tends to rebuff, avoid, or ignore those regarded as inferior. One who has an offensive air of superiority in matters of knowledge or taste."

      And if one person said it, twenty were thinking it. How could it be a virtue to make oneself so disagreeable to one's social circle?

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  12. Not that I know of, but that doesn't mean it never happened. I work hard at being consciously kind and respectful to everyone I encounter. The fact that I dress, speak, and in some respects comport myself differently than some of them is just not that big a deal.

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  13. People do so like to judge others these days. The Middleton sisters have been called the wisteria sisters for being social climbers. You can be called a snob, or aspirational, or told that you are "rising above your raising". The fact is I appreciate anyone at anytime who tries to raise their standards of interest, attire, manners, or attitude. Why should anyone want to settle for less?

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    1. Wishing to "better" oneself isn't in the same class or category as being a social striver. The former does so to develop and refine valued attributes like courtesy and conscientiousness so as to be a better friend, citizen and steward of the earth. If one is doing it to gain some sort or superiority over others, appear in glossy magazines or be seen in the "right" places with the "right" people then it's superficial and for appearances, not refinement of character.

      I agree that some snobs will throw around disparaging terms to twist the intent and value of those they see as beneath them and a threat to their imagined worth. Worse they will imply that certain things in life are simply a right of birth and heritage that can’t ever be earned.

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    2. @Averyl: I couldn't have said it better myself!

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  14. I have been called a vintage British car snob. And I take that as a compliment!

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  15. If enjoying the finer things in life is being a SNOB, I’ll wear that badge proudly! There’s a lack of worldly cultural exposure in the US that leads to ignorance and prejudice! Building bridges not walls will make us better!

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  16. So far, I've never been called a snob by a stranger. One can maintain standards without giving strangers or colleagues the impression that you are difficult or care too much about details that others find too particular. Ultimately, it is all about what we value most. Treating others well is always job #1. For example, at home I could be considered a snob about coffee and tea (or any number of other things). When outside of my home, I will drink whatever is offered and be grateful for it. I won't turn away bad coffee, comment on it, or offer suggestions. I drink it and thank the host. Among close friends and family, we have exchanged jabs of snobbery, but it is good-natured and usually a shared condition.

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    1. I think this is a wise and kind analysis. The last sentence also made me laugh, reminding me of good times with old friends, "a shared condition" indeed.

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    2. I love this reply. Yes, kindness always counts first.

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  17. I've been call a Watch snob......and I am!

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  18. Many times, for the rank sins of standing up straight, dressing neatly, speaking clearly and grammatically, and avoiding jargon and excessive use of exclamation points. In my experience of more than half a century, if you're not a willing fashion victim, a fool, or a vulgarian, you're going to be tarred with the slob brush. I've worn a beard--neatly trimmed--for the last four years and have found life much easier, as the facial hair somehow establishes the idea that I actually have worked a day in my life, and the dark-brown color raises the possibility that I might not actually be white, Anglo-Saxon, and Protestant.

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  19. what interesting comments this morning!
    all seem to have merit concerning the question.
    to me just treating everyone with kindness is a nice place to start.
    I find that I love anyone with a sense of humor about themselves.
    and so often the supposed 'snob' hasn't got that particular insight.
    someone once said "everyone wants to be special."
    or at the very least feel that they are accepted by whatever they perceive is a special Group. to be set apart. to be better than others who are not in Their Group.
    and good lord. I would think there are certainly enough 'groups' out there for anyone to feel special. LOLOL!!! I imagine I must be in the crass LOL group.

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  20. I can recall occasions where opponents, judges, even clients in smaller towns and places far from the coasts referred to me as a "big city" lawyer. I didn't invest much time considering whether that was intended to be a compliment or an insult. They all eventually learned that I grew up trying cases in small town courtrooms and appreciated getting good results, regardless of what I was wearing or my east coast accent, which labels me as an outsider in many parts of the country. I intentionally did not wear my higher end shoes, suits, or ties in jury trials or before judges in smaller or more rural situations, and I always teamed with local lawyers to blunt the 'big city' perception.

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    1. Andrew, I grew up in a small town, and "big city" never meant anything good to the locals. Your sartorial choices in such locales were wise ones. I try not to hit my consonants too hard when I go "home."

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  21. I have been called a "book snob" on several occasions and I didn't take it negatively or positively. It was said because I don't usually care for the mainstream books my friends are reading (best sellers and lots of fiction). I tend toward the classics and nonfiction. It's just a preference and not a judgment.

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    1. I am in the same position, and I find that most people think they're being judged by anyone who doesn't share their tastes. I believe this says more about people with mainstream tastes than it says about me.

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    2. Ty, You are 100% correct about that!

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    3. I totally agree. I get frustrated with the crudeness, vulgarity and unkindness of our modern culture, but I don’t think this makes me a snob.

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  22. I’ve been called a snob by my children! Also a grammar nazi.
    MaryAnne

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  23. The community may enjoy Joseph Epstein's book, Snobbery:The American Version.

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    1. Based on your comment, I researched Joseph Epstein. I became a fan when I learned that he coined the word, "virtucrat". Thank you.

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    2. ^ That is rewarding to hear. I have been reading his essays for years but have run across too few others who know his work.

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  24. Grew up in a very modest household. Attended public schools. Am gainfully employed. But have always had a traditional sense of good taste. Managed to buy a very nice house. Sent my kids to top quality schools. All in all, consider myself pretty successful. Not sure that makes me a snob or a Horatio Alger story come to life.

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  25. Reverse snobbery is the most charming form, I think. This is why old WASP values, difficult to find these days, remain a source of inspiration for a small number. The well used, the decrepit, the broken-down, the creased and wrinkled, the threadbare--such a robust counterpoint to the shiny (synthetic) athleisure clothing and new house/new (usually leased) car/new this-that-and-the-other vibe. Sadly much of New England, now infused with all varieties of new money and accompanying vulgarities, has lost that charm. Very sad indeed. "Polished" is now (much) preferred to "rustic."

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    1. Not lost, just not highly visible, tending to keep ourselves to ourselves.

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  26. In 2020, a "snob" is typically a person who has indicated preferences, standards, and/or boundaries. I suggest that the next time you are called a snob, ask with sincerity and curiosity - "Really? What do you mean? How so?" Reply, "Hmmmm, interesting" and move on. There's no reason to attempt try to persuade otherwise. On the one hand, you may be found humorless. On the other hand, it won't likely be repeated.

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  27. Looks like someone wanted to pull the pin on the hand grenade today. I am looking at one now on our side table courtesy of my grandfather Capt AEF USA WW I. I always subscribe to Mammy's comment/advice in Gone With the Wind to Scarlett & Rhett.
    " She said we could give ourselves airs & get ourselves rigged up & were like racehorses & we were just mules in horse's harness & didn't fool anybody". Been known to use this quote while making fun of myself. Of course being a Southerner & a mule, I can pull off this move.

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  28. I confess to being a blog snob -- this is the only one I read. And I love it. Excellent community. Thank you, Muffy.
    Suzanne in Boulder

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  29. There is snob and then there is snob. The former is one whose holier than thou attitude permeates everything about them. They wear their patronizing countenance as if it were a badge of honor. Their condescension and insensitivity to others, whether it be overt or subtle, is a hallmark of who they are. They look down their nose at everyone they perceive as beneath them.

    The latter is someone who is kind, polite, friendly, altruistic and charitable. If they feel superior they keep it to themselves; basically good human beings with a high opinion of themselves. If one is going to embody snobbishness it is better to fall into the latter category.

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  30. SNOB-someone who associates themselves with people of a certain class or income level specifically because they are of that class and expresses disdain openly for anyone else.

    DISCRIMINATING- Someone who associates themselves with people who hold certain values but reacts with respect and decency to those who do not.

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  31. Once upon a time and not recently, there was the concept of "gentleman." It wasn't something about how you learned to behave properly, although you certainly had to learn correct manners. You could misbehave and still be a gentleman. But for others who had not been born gentlemen (or ladies), imitating the ways of gentlemen might be seen as snobbish by their social equals or as servile by their betters. But we're not like that anymore.

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