Wednesday, February 24, 2010

How to deal with smart people

Have you ever had this happen? You stated your opinion, and it doesn't matter the subject-because let's face it- smart people know everything about everything. The next words out of smart person's mouth are "Well, actually..." You're doomed. Their electrons or neutrons (probably some mutant jet fuel thown in there for good measure) is firing through their brain and that thing isn't going to power down for anything.

My GPA is in the mid 3.0 range. Teachers don't kiss the ground upon which I walk, and I don't get comments like "OMG, you soooooo smart!!!" Usually, I am the one saying that to some nerd who fixed my computer.

That being said, I have close friends whose IQs are astronomically high. They read computer programming books for fun, and their words are never shorter than five syllables. Most of their conversations are peppered with words that end in "ism," "ology," and "phobia" - and that not when they talk in "code." You know CSS, HTML, FTP which works with works with 3.4 modem although the 4.6 version is going to be available soon. blah blah blah. I had one friend who took a class at UCLA that I seriously could not pronounce for the life of me- and of course he got an A.

How do we mere mortals deal with such brilliance? Some people try to rationalize that they have "street" smarts. But really? What street smarts do I actually have? I can tie my shoes so they don't come's called a double knot. I can turn on the microwave. I can do an improv dance to "Break Your Heart" by Taio Cruz. I can put on lip gloss.

Let's face it, I can get along just fine in society, but I go about my day rather unnoticed, unlike all of my genius friends who are bombarded with tutoring requests and computer questions. My "street smarts" of being able to check my oil or text at 60 characters a minute won't get me to top of "Mount Smart" and I am thinking that I need to even the playing field.

I have compiled a list of things we "dummies" can use to try to relate and balance this vicious circle of feeling stupid every time our smart friend opens their mouth.

1. Use the word "theoretically" as much as possible. If you say that something is "just in theory" then how can they contradict you. Practically anything can be a theory!!! Science is made of theories and that seems to be working out for them. In theory, anything could work at some point/situation.

2. Any time one of your "smart" friends opens their mouth and says "well actually" and you brace yourself for a 30-minute explanation of why you actually do not exist, and you are a figment of your imagination because you are just an image of the real thing. And Plato, cave, fire, and Augustine, and Socrates, and ism, phobia, ology. Physics, Biology, Anthropomorphism.

Remember, you now have time to go over what you are going to do tonight for dinner and what show you are going to watch after you listen to your new CD. Your friend is actually helping you organize your day. Be thankful.

Kant, Decartes, doubt, evolution, peppered moths....... Hey now you can figure out what you will wear tomorrow.

3. If your friend says something and it sounds smart, but you don't actually know what they just said....ask it back as a philosophical question.

"Freud said that every person struggles with their id, ego, and super-ego."
"So what you are saying is that to Freud, every person is struggling to be who they really are?"

"Well actually......mother, love, father, child, anal, stages blah blah blah."
"So what you are saying is that we have a distorted relationship with others because we have primitive instincts?"

Notice, we haven't said anything they haven't already said, but we feel like we are contributing to the conversation.

I could go on, but I don't want to sound too smart. Remember, smart people are to be dealt with gentleness because they are the ones who will do our taxes, sell our stock, and fix our computers. We love smart people, even if we never understand a word they say.

Excuse me, I must go develop some more "street smarts," like how to zap a hot pocket in the microwave.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Zombie grammar in the workplace

"Lol" "Brb" "Thx" "Cya" We have become a society of acronyms and abbreviations. Back when IMing first came out, parents were outraged by the secret codes their teenagers were using to communicate to their friends. Now, ten years later, those kids-turned-parents are texting their kids to tell them where to meet them.

Communication has become mass forwarded jokes on e-mails and texts and little thought is put into everyday messages. Typos and abbreviated syntax has become a tolerated form of "fast talk." We think in facebook status updates. "Emily is wanting some ice cream." "Emily found no ice cream in the freezer." "Emily is going to the store, cya lata." How will this stream of consciousness culture affect business transactions?

I edit press releases submitted to a small newspaper. Press/News releases supposedly written by professional men and women are full of grammatical errors that a fourth grader could point out. The vocabulary is slang and remedial and misspellings are rampant. When I open a press release and see the opening sentence is four lines long, I wonder what has happened to the Adults of America? Forget the youth, they never could spell anyways. Now adults are being infected by this plague of dead syntax.

The solution? Read an AP stylebook, diagram a sentence, check that sentence! People have become lazy in their language, and language is the most important aspect in any culture. Lose the richness of a language and watch a bunch of zombies gnaw their dangling prepositions and split infinitives with emotionless passion. When language in any context becomes sloppy, it threatens the integrity of the people who use it.