Thursday 27 January 2011


Mark Oppenheimer's half-apologia for snobbery is excellent fun, even if he is likely the type to eat inefficiently. After a lengthy discourse on how he became a snob and how it's changed his life, for better and worse, he wonders about passing along the inheritance:
Now that I have three young children, I worry about burdening them with this most unhelpful tendency. There are all kinds of vices that are rather fun to indulge, and can be quite harmless, up until the moment one has a family. Promiscuity, for one. Sloth. Recreational enjoyment of hallucinogens. All are well and good until there's a wife or child whom you're not coming home to. Does snobbery belong on that list, that list of things one must abandon to be a responsible family man? Well, that is complicated. Yes and no.

Yes, because snobbery is ultimately a dysfunction, and if my daughters were to lose potential close friendships, and someday lovers or partners, because of the trivia they imbibed, via their father, from The Official Preppy Handbook and Class, then I would have a lot to answer for. And once you learn snobbery, it is very hard to unlearn. They would be wrecked for life, like me.

Also, of course, snobbery is immoral. It is unkind, and frequently vicious, and built upon lies about what other people are really like.

And yet I am not convinced that I can give up snobbery so quickly. Because as much as it could harm my daughters, it could also make them Oppenheimers. For after all, snobbery is one of the great midwives of human closeness. Almost nothing I can think of unites two people better than shared snobberies. I never feel more married to my wife than when we enter another couple's house for the first time and, on seeing that the television is a bit too large, or too prominently placed in the front room, look at one another and—well, I was going to say "arch out eyebrows," but of course we do not even need to do that. The mere look, the meeting of the eyes, does it all.
I've little to add. Were Denis still here, the essay would top the relevant ALD column.

It almost makes me regret that a farming background entirely precluded early development of high-form snobbishness. Instead, mine is low-form: too particularistic to be really worth much.


  1. Great article. However, I can barely remember what I was doing and desiring at high school - I can't believe he can recall his intentions from primary school.

    That is true talent.

  2. weighty problems on your psyche philosophical one, suggested remedy, take wife and girls to the
    Buskers shows for the next three days, do not think at all,report back on monday