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Saturday 12 January 2013

Something for the disdainful

I have been accused of being a snob. Not recently, I admit. But that’s because the charge of vieux jeu is more likely. A retired snob, in fact.

But does the original charge stick? Isn’t old age a time to accept what one is or was, warts and all? I checked snobs’ websites and found "an expert or connoisseur in a given field (who condescends) toward, or is disdainful of, those who hold other opinions or have different tastes regarding this field."

The list of fields didn’t include Motorbikes or Technology but did offer Culture in General. Shoot for the moon, I told myself. And there was a ten-point checklist. A CiG snob must have:

Read The Man Without Qualities (better still Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften)
Visited the Tate and ignored the Turners.
Listened voluntarily to A Quartet For The End of Time.
Owned at least one pair of silk underpants.
Laughed twice during L'Année Dernière à Marienbad.
Driven a 2.4 Jaguar before the first Morse book was written.
Drunk a twenty-year old vintage of any two of The Big Five (Latour, Margaux, Haut Brion, Lafite, Mouton-Rothschild) preferably at someone else's expense.
Said that snails eat better than frog's legs
Danced with a millionaire's daughter and reckoned the experience "banal".
Known what l'aïeule means and been able to pronounce it.

The hugely pro-French bias seemed appropriate given this was a test for English snobs. I started ticking off the list with growing interest.

Tell you what: I’ll tell you my score if you tell me yours


  1. I've been called a beer snob. My friends call me a beer connoisseur.
    Do I get a point for the first one since I understand the German meaning? If so, then I've got a score of 2. Unless you grant a point for the fact that I was a millionaire for about 10 minutes in the early 90's (so it was Yen, but it still counts, doesn't it?). But then a German-American snob with oriental tendencies might have a different bias requirement.

  2. A snobbish remark from which, as someone who shares most of your concealed snoberies and admits to several others, I cannot refrain, concerns snails eating intransitively. They should no better.

  3. All: Can hardly hold myself back but others may respond. Everyone must get a fair crack of the whip.

  4. What's that about ignoring Turners at the Tate? For shame!
    And did you really sit through the whole of Marienbad?

  5. And presumably only dancing men can be snobs...thankfully

    Did you, did anyone (Marienbad)

  6. Sir Hugh: 1.5? Not on your nelly. I know where the 1 came from and a quick scrutiny of the rest suggests you're trying to slip under my radar after having looked up l'aïeule and claiming half a point for that. You won't get it. You're a mere 10% snob, hardly equipped for making a decent show at The Albion.

    RW (zS): Another potential cheat. Since a translation of the the title lies highly adjacent, you get nothing. As for that optimistic attempt via the yen, no and no again. Shift the decimal point three places to the left (for conversion to sterling) and you would only qualify as a Tausendfräulein - which probably wouldn't cover a parking ticket in the state in which you live. And think about having to admit to that make of car when paying the fine. A snob? More like a mendicant.

    I do agree given your ethnic origins you deserve a differently biased checklist. Before that happens you need to start qualifying: putting it about that that LvB's Heilige Dankgesang is faux-simplistic and that Franz Beckenbauer secretly eats Big Macs.

    Joe: Well spotted the intransitive. Points too for deliberately misspelling (ie, snoberies) showing you are above all this. An admirable trait de snobbisme.

    Fedorovna: You just haven't got the hang of this. Snobbery is a multi-pronged approach, oscillating from outrageousness to out-of-reachness (eg, the claret). Your breath was taken away by the Turner admission - which was what the examiner was looking for! As for Last Year, I have seen it twice. I'd like to pretend the second time was so that I could savour the moments which non-snobs weren't going to get but it just so happened it was on telly.

    All: As you all suspected, I scored 100% and am a perfect snob. And just to calm down those who need calming down let me say the checklist deserves closer analysis. I didn't say I never looked at the Turners in the Tate.

  7. I claimed the 0.5 for getting somewhere near on the claret from Father's offerings over fifty years ago.

    I think I also qualify with my habit of saving plastic carrier bags from superior retailers so that I can put items in them that I am giving to friends and more importantly others, instead of using one from Morrisons, but I suppose if one had the real wealth the latter would be more snobbish.

  8. Oh nooo I'm afraid to report:
    ---tick---tick tick tick

  9. Can only score 1 I'm afraid - bet you can guess which?

    Although I have owned two Ariel Square Fours in succession, in the past - can that count, as a two-wheel aficionado? (or must it be a Brough Superior - vastly over-rated)

  10. Sir Hugh: My aim was to score you a solid one for the claret and 0.5 for coming to terms with uncertainty about the other nine items. Since writing this piece I have discovered that snobbism is far more complicated than I ever imagined: for one thing it covers doing certain things and not doing certain others. Or, more particularly, claiming to do/not do these things. I'm not entirely sure whether your bag tactic qualifies and I now find myself on the edge of an immensely tricky thesis: U and non-U. But were you too young? If so, when you finally delve into this delightful pond don't miss out on Evelyn Waugh's comments in his diary and, of course, the definitive verse by John Betjeman.

    Ellena: Sounds as if you're becoming less concerned with the state of your trachea than you were. All those ticks; I didn't know there were any snobs at all in Canada. NOTE: I wouldn't have included trachea for anyone else but you.

    Avus: No, you can't get in sideways with motorbikes. Bikers can be snobby with other bikers about their mounts (A Square Four, forsooth! The choice speaks volumes) but they don't figure in the universal galaxy of snobs. At a guess I'd say it's the Jaguar but have you checked the date of the first Morse? It's far earlier than I imagined though at 1964 I qualify with ease.

  11. I'm right in the middle. Though is it really snobbery to say that snails taste better than frog legs?

  12. Julia: As I said, snobbism is quite complex. For instance the subjects may be worthwhile (I listen only to Wagner), risible (I have my socks specially knitted in Reyjavik) or outrageous (Mozart's too heavy for me). Also the emphasis shifts from country to country: I first ate frog legs in Pennsylvania and have never seen them on offer at all in the UK. The snails vs frog legs preference only makes sense in the UK, therefore, and the snobbism is implicit in having an opinion on both. But (secretly) you're right; it's the weakest of the lot and I could have done better. I'm glad you don't favour corporal punishment.