Question of the day.

What are some annoying things that people do to sound/seem intelligent?

My answer:

I haven’t noticed it so much in English, but in Polish it’s specific filler words, and, once you pick up on it, it’s annoying as hell. 😀 Using fillers is generally perceived to be something that not very intelligent people do, and, like I said, I don’t really have a very detailed idea of how exactly it works in English, that is, if some fillers are perceived differently than others and if some people use some fillers more than others, but in Polish we do have some filler words, or maybe not even necessarily fillers as such but words that are very much overused by people who want to be perceived as intelligent –
and often are indeed intelligent but, well, it’s annoying. – I don’t suppose they do it out of some desire to brag or cockiness or something, I guess it’s just something that became a thing with some types of intelligent, or should I say academically successful, people.

Another thing which is less annoying for me personally (because I am guilty of doing it too so that’s probably why I’m more forgiving 😀 ), but is widely perceived as trying to sound more intelligent and intimidates some people is using way more foreign-sounding words/loanwords than necessary – mostly what I’m talking about is a lot of words with Latin or perhaps Greek origins when we have words to use that express the same thing but sound more familiar because they come from the same language group that our language does, so Germanic in English and Slavic in Polish. Why say existence if you can say life, of course in situations when it won’t impact somehow the meaning of what you want to say. Or, in Polish, especially in a workplace setting, why say deadline in English if you can say termin in Polish (oh well, termin is Latin, 😀 but we don’t have anything better and termin is a lot more familiar and home(l)y). As I said, I do that a lot myself, however usually when I do it, it’s consciously and because I want to convey something by using lots of latinisms, like sarcasm for example, or sometimes I just prefer the sound or my synaesthetic associations of a specific Latin word over a more familiar, less sophisticated word. Other times though, I just want to brag with my vocabulary and language skills. 😀 Sometimes I also do something opposite in Polish and use a Slavic equivalent even though a Latin one is more popular, I’ve even made up some neologisms of my own because they sound better to me and I like making up neologisms, and ones which are rooted firmly in the language can be easily understood by others even if they’ve never heard such a word before.

One situation where this gets problematic is I think when you start using latinisms and hellenisms more than necessary all the time without realising and sound VERY clunky and serious and big-headed, and sometimes people don’t even understand exactly what you’re saying. Another is when you use them without really understanding what they mean, especially as an adult and in your native language. And then there is yet another situation where it perhaps isn’t problematic, but, like I said before, can be potentially intimidating for others. 😀

A perfect example is a Polish Catholic YouTuber whom my Mum, Sofi and me (but especially Sofi!) like to watch. We like him because he is a traditional Catholic like us, and he’s also very intelligent and clearly knows a lot about a lot of things and has his brain in the right place, while being humble and able to admit if he was wrong about something and just talking about things from the perspective of a lay person – perhaps well-educated and aware of a lot of things in the world, but without a degree in theology and often not understanding a lot of things. – Plus I like that he has a bit of a different way of presenting things than most Catholic people or media online that I have come across – not a different way of looking at them, but a different way of talking about them that speaks to me more. – Anyway, one thing I don’t like about his channel is how he uses those big words all the time. Yes they do sound better, and he knows what they mean, but his audience is very diverse, and not everyone knows that just because they’re Catholic. Sofi, who is very interested in all that stuff like religion and also politics, and likes to know everything, asks a lot of questions and likes to watch things like that, always says she has to watch his videos with me or Mum so that someone will explain everything to her, because it’s interesting but she doesn’t understand a lot of words. Admittedly, Sofi has a bit limited vocabulary, likely because of being a preemie and generally struggling at school a little, but the things he talks about aren’t usually so difficult that Sofi shouldn’t be able to understand them if they were said in a slightly more approachable way. I remember watching one of his videos last year and was quite confused as to what parousia was, as he was using that word in almost every sentence. Like really, I’d think I have quite a rich vocabulary but I had no clue what that parousia thing was. Finally I figured it out from the context and then looked it up just to make sure, and I was right – it means the second coming of Jesus, at the end of the world – and then when my Mum was watching that video, she had the same problem. And you could just say second coming/Final Judgment. Before we moved to where we live now, we lived in the countryside and our church parish consisted of a few small villages, where most people were farmers or something like that and had enough stuff to deal with in their own daily lives to be concerned with such a thing as language, even though a lot of them – being Kashubs –
were bilingual, and a lot were elderly people. And we had a priest who was a very intelligent, studious man, very eloquent and I guess he must have felt quite out of place in there and would have probably been able to use his talents better with theology students or something. He had a weird way of saying everything in such a way that it seemed extremely complicated. Even my Mum’s family – who are relatively intellectual people, my maternal grandparents were both born to intelligentsia families (I only recently learned that the word intelligentsia works in English 😀 ) – were often complaining of not understanding his sermons. I was a child and teenager then and the one thing I remember about him most clearly is that he used the word exegesis extremely often in his sermons, and no one could tell me what it was. I still don’t think I’d be able to use it naturally in any sentence other than something like the one I just wrote, even though I have a basic idea of what it is. 😀

Oh yeah, and, in Polish, the nasal vowels can make you sound more intelligent or less intelligent. Polish nasal vowels are ą and ę, which are pronounced like the French nasal sounds, ą is like the on in “bon”, and ę is like… well, I don’t have a very wide French vocabulary at all, but I can vaguely remember the word “chermins” so it’s pronounced like the in in it. But, the thing is, sometimes they are pronounced differently, depending where in the word they are, and, to a lesser extend, where in Poland you are. Ą can sound like the English on, or like om, while ę can sound like en, em or e, so then naturally they’re no longer nasal. Now, when people still pronounce them in a nasal way where it shouldn’t be so, it’s considered hypercorrection, and it makes a kind of overintelectualised impression it makes. Hence a rather hilarious way of saying in Polish that someone who is desperately trying to be more sophisticated, more intelligent than they actually are or generally aspiring to something they are not is so “ą ę”, it’s used like an adjective.

What are such things in your opinion/experience? 🙂