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How to sound smarter than you actually are

We’re not all geniuses. If we were, we’d all be at Ivy League schools like Harvard and Yale. Not to insult anyone’s intelligence, but sometimes we (myself included) get in situations where we talk to people more intelligent than we are. It can be awkward and embarrassing. So how do you cope with not being at the same scholastic level as some of your friends?

Learn the names of important national and Iowan politicians. For Iowa, know that the governor is Chet Culver (Democrat), our senators are Chuck Grassley (Republican) and Tom Harkin (Democrat), and our representatives are Leonard Boswell (Democrat), Bruce Braley (Democrat), Steve King (Republican), Tom Latham (Republican) and David Loebsack (Democrat). That’s all you need to know. Simply by knowing their names and political affiliations, you will seem smarter than most of the average Iowan residents.

Hopefully, you know Barack Obama is our president, and he is a Democrat. The vice president is Joe Biden (also a Democrat). Hillary Clinton is the secretary of state, Eric Holder is the attorney general and the secretary of homeland security is Janet Napolitano. Those are all very important people who have potential to come up in conversations.

Sometimes people have a better vocabulary than we do. Don’t waste time reading the dictionary. Learn words that most people have probably never heard of, and learn to use them in sentences that are vague and in no way hint to the meaning of the word in order to insure your apparent superiority of random word knowledge. Here is a small list of some words:

Absquatulate (v)- to flee

– They had to absquatulate.

Anacoluthia (n)- lack of grammatical sequence or coherence (especially in a sentence)

-– Anacoluthia is a problem with many papers.

Tintinnabulation (n)- tinkling sound (like bells)

-– Do you hear that tintinnabulation?

Brobdingnagian (adj)- gigantic, enormous

– That is one Brobdingnagian man.

Hobbledehoy (n)- an awkward, gawky fellow

– He sure is a hobbledehoy.

Few people know of these unique words, and there are many more out there. By looking at dictionary.com you can find many obscure words and even subscribe to the word of the day.

Know what’s in the news. This doesn’t mean you have to actually know what’s going on in the U.S. That’s crazy talk! No, just read the headlines and skim articles online. You don’t even have to understand them. A few good topics to know:

• Iraq War

• Oil Spill

• Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell ban

Do your friends read books and try to talk about them with you? How annoying! Do they expect you to actually read? Well, thank goodness for Wikipedia and SparkNotes! Here are a few titles you should be aware of:

• “To Kill a Mockingbird”- The story of a girl named Scout, a colored man who gets wrongly jailed and killed, and a pale guy named Boo Radley that no one likes, but who turns out to be the good guy.

• “Catcher in the Rye”- The story of a whiny boy who got kicked out of his prep school and instead of going home, he stays in New York.

• “Twilight”- A ridiculously annoying girl falls in love with a sparkly vampire. No real plot beyond that.

• “Harry Potter”- An unloved child attends a school for magic and is constantly attacked by a crazy semi-immortal guy with no nose.

And of course, these are not the only books people deem “noteworthy” to read. With Wikipedia and SparkNotes, you may never have to actually read a book again.

If, while socializing with people potentially smarter than you, they talk about something you don’t know, just say that the topic is one that you are far too emotional about to discuss any further. Then Google it later if you feel the topic might come up again.

I hope that with these tips you can one up your smart friends and show them what’s what!



  1. CP September 27, 2010

    The second sentence of this article is ridiculous. George W. Bush (Republican) went to Harvard AND Yale…………….

    He’s certainly not a genius.

    AND there are plenty of perfectly smart people at Drake University who were accepted to Ivy League schools, but chose to attend THIS fine institution.

  2. LW September 27, 2010

    Sorry to offend you, this article is merely for fun. There are many many many intelligent people at Drake. We have many many many wonderful programs. Again, this article is merely poking fun. The third sentence says “Not to insult anyone’s intelligence.” And I really do mean that.

    Clearly George W. Bush is not a genius. However, he is rich. That helps a bit. Not all intelligent people have to go to Yale, Harvard, or any Ivy League school, or even a private school.

    However, considering I doubt many people will actually use tintinnabulation in sentence, I hope you can see this is all supposed to be in good humor. Again, sorry if you took offense.


  3. Matt Nelson September 28, 2010

    I’m with Laura. The article is just plain light and goofy. Haters need to chill… and absquatulate.

  4. Audrey September 29, 2010

    Laura…. you’re funny! I want more 🙂

  5. Bill September 30, 2010

    That’s great! We need this kind of stuff to help us lighten up. People who can’t poke a little fun at themselves from time to time end up living a really boring life!

  6. Becky October 1, 2010

    UHHHH …. did theTD seriously allow the phrase “colored man” to be printed? WOW. Extremely offensive. Does the author know the president is Barak Obama and the year is 2010 NOT 1950?

  7. Lil October 2, 2010

    A very clever article, well written Laura.

  8. Karen October 3, 2010

    Very funny – just what we need to “lighten up” a little. Good job, Laura!

  9. Arthur October 3, 2010

    I totally like Laura’s article. And I totally disagree with Becky. In that famous novel, African Americans were known as Colored People. And we need to be reminded of that, as well as how they were treated, lest we forget and repeat that aweful mistake with yet another group of people, is some other way. Even now there are some who say the holocaust never happened, that the Nazi’s never slaughtered millions of innocent Jews. We need to quit trying to rewrite history, and quit trying to whitewash the unpleasant memories.

  10. DSI October 3, 2010

    We’re homo sapiens, not neanderthals or trolls. Starting a comment that way does not lend credence to your argument. Maybe you don’t believe that such terms should be used in reference to people at all, in any context, in any situation, by any source, ever. The author does not care. She recognizes that the phrase “colored man” was an integral part of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” just as “nigger” was in “Huckleberry Finn.” That’s what they said back then, and it lends realism to each story in its own way. No, we aren’t proud of it, but it’s a part of history that we can’t just forget, lest we lose some of that which made our “great” country what it is today.

  11. Dave October 4, 2010

    Good article Laura. I see a couple testy remarks. Hmmm… the word Left comes to mind. 🙂
    Good job!

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