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Prepare Yourself For The Tournament of Pretentiousness

joust arcade game

This was Joust in the arcade. You won't get off this easy


I’ve been reading George R.R. Martin again I have jousting on the brain. So today I’m going to invite you and all of my other readers to pit yourselves against one another in relatively mild combat. But instead of lances we’re going to be battling with…

1.Pretentious: Attempting to impress by affecting greater importance or merit than is actually possessed; making an exaggerated outward display; ostentatious, showy. (Oxford English Dictionary)

…pretentious statements. Today begins the first tournament of pretentiousness.

How it will work

In the comments (or you can send me an email), please write a pretentious statement that you have read, overheard, or possibly that you yourself have uttered.

Depending on the response, we will have tournament brackets of either 32 or 64 pretentious quote slots. Actually, let’s just make it 64. If I don’t get enough from you, I’ll enjoy digging them up on my own.

Then, at the rate of one or two posts each week, we will vote on pairings of pretentious statements. The quote with the most votes advances to face the victor of another encounter.

Each week will bring us closer to the finals, where once and for all we will know who has made the most pretentious statement of all time.

A couple of examples from Harold Bloom and Martin Amis

Academics, literary critics, and writers are the most common offenders, in my opinion. And none more so than passionate literary critic Harold Bloom. Take a look at this quote on Shakespeare:

. . . he is always ahead of you, conceptually and imagistically, whoever and whenever you are. He renders you anachronistic because he contains you; you cannot subsume him. You cannot illuminate him with a new doctrine, be it Marxism or Freudianism or Demanian linguistic skepticism. Instead, he will illuminate the doctrine, not by prefiguration but by postfiguration as it were: all of Freud that matters most is there in Shakespeare already, with a persuasive critique of Freud besides. The Freudian map of the mind is Shakespeare’s; Freud seems only to have prosified it. (The Western Canon)

Oh brother. If you rolled your eyes at this, you’re ready to jump right into the tournament. You can spot pretension.

I’m no Philistine, but this is overdoing it when Bloom’s illocutionary force (see! I know how to be pretentious! I enjoy studying rhetoric and this is where I’m most likely to lapse into pedantry) is simply to get us to read Shakespeare and understand how important his work is.

Whatever. I’ve read all of Shakespeare, Thoman Mann, and every single one of the Conan novels. I usually prefer Conan. Did you know he used a stone for a pillow?

Here’s Martin Amis in an essay written about the 9/11 attacks.

“My principal objection to the numbers is that they are numbers,” he writes in “The Second Plane.” “The solecism, that is to say, is not grammatical but moral-aesthetic — an offense against decorum; and decorum means ‘seemliness,’ which comes from soemr, ‘fitting,’ and soema, ‘to honor.’ 9/11, 7/7: who or what decided that particular acts of slaughter, particular whirlwinds of plasma and body parts, in which a random sample of the innocent is killed, maimed, or otherwise crippled in body and mind, deserve a numerical shorthand? Whom does this ‘honor’? What makes this ‘fitting’?”

I can’t find a link to the original essay, but Michiko Kakutani’s review of Amis’ novel Second Plane was where I first saw the statement.

Are you beginning to see the glories of the tournament? If these two statements were entries, we would all cast a vote for either Bloom or Amis, and one would advance to face the lucky winner of another fierce bout.

I want you to stretch. Go find something truly awful. Write something yourself if you have to. Let’s see if we can find a bunch of quotes to put the two above to shame.

Good luck to us all. See you on the other side.


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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • KA June 30, 2011, 10:40 am

    Perfect timing, sir. Just yesterday I heard this: “I don’t usually go out amongst the rest of you, but my aide is sick and I am in need of….” He actually said amongst.

  • Gustavo| Frugal Science July 1, 2011, 9:14 am

    I am sending you to examples just to see if I understood the rules:

    The first one: “I can take Josh any time, with one hand… “(I heard this, on a busy day, around the library you work)

    The second: “le Surrealisme c’est moi” (Salvador Dalí, the most pretentious guy in art history)

    • Josh Hanagarne July 1, 2011, 9:51 am

      Gustavo, the second is perfect. Anything that you find insufferably overdone is just right.

  • Gustavo July 3, 2011, 10:05 am

    Every morning when I wake up, I experience an exquisite joy — the joy of being Salvador Dalí — and I ask myself in rapture: What wonderful things is this Salvador Dalí going to accomplish today?
    Salvador Dalí.

  • Jen Hinderer July 6, 2011, 6:32 am

    All of the women on The Apprentice flirted with me – consciously or unconsciously. That’s to be expected.
    Donald Trump

  • Jen Hinderer July 6, 2011, 12:13 pm

    I knew he wouldn’t let me down, i dug up this gem from Ahnold Schwarzenegger. I assume its from Pumping Iron, but no verification of that yet.

    I knew I was a winner back in the late sixties. I knew I was destined for great things. People will say that kind of thinking is totally immodest. I agree. Modesty is not a word that applies to me in any way – I hope it never will.
    Arnold Schwarzenegger

    I should probably get back to work now…