Putting On Airs

A snobby type high up in the Alps was recently expounding about Americans, when I interrupted him about his own country, France. Yes, I said, Americans owe a great debt to France for Lafayette and all that, but if it weren’t for Uncle Sam, French people would mostly be speaking German by now. Silence followed, as if someone had loudly passed wind in front of an elderly duchess.
The snobby type was not saying anything really rude about America, just snotty things about Trump and his vulgarity and the people who voted for him. My negative reaction was because there is nothing more vulgar—at least in my book—than snobbishness concealing one’s true intentions, which in this case was jealousy and nothing but. Funny how over in the old continent, now sinking under the weight of the Muslim invasion through other means, snobbery is doing a brisk business, especially among those not really very confident about their antecedents, namely the nouveaux riche.
Snobbery is basically an effort of imposing one’s self on a social situation, pulling rank, indicating that one’s superior to those around him. In other words, snobbery is a camouflage for one’s insecurities. Ironically, the snob is more often than not a snob-victim, worsted in conflict with his or her superiors. The distinguishing mark of a snob is faked grandeur, and God only knows how many of these snobs I have met in my long life, first living in Paris as a young man, later on in London. Mind you, the Italians did away with snobbism by inventing titles when there were none, so even a lowly mechanic is addressed as “ingeniere” in the land of pasta.
No country has suffered from snob-reigned supreme until recently. As late as the 1950s Nancy Mitford’s U and non-U was a publishing sensation. Nancy, born into the middling aristocracy, explained which words were used by the upper classes (hence the U) and the ones practiced by the middle and lower classes (hence the non-U). For example, looking glass was U, mirror non-U, sofa U, couch non-U, radio non-U, wireless U, and so on. The reason the list did not become a bible for snobs and social climbers—although it did for awhile—was because most non-U words or expressions were used by Americans. Until Great Britain reluctantly became just Britain by losing her empire following the last world war, America stood at the wings, like an understudy waiting for his opportunity to show his stuff if the star fell ill. The British lion roared its last sixty years ago, in the Suez crisis, and the American eagle took over: On the field, in the boardroom, and in the drawing room. Americanisms became the rage with the young blades of Eton and Harrow, and non-U words became U overnight.
Needless to say, there was and still is a reaction to the Americanization of Europe, but mostly it is pure unadulterated jealousy. American openness, lack of hypocrisy and getting straight to the point are qualities most good people admire. In my experience, the great aristocratic families of Britain, France, and the rest of Europe were the least snobby of all. The duke and the dustman had a lot in common in their loathing of the middle classes, as the joke goes, but it’s a saying based on truth. It was the snobbishness of the aspiring classes that separated them from the working and aristocratic ones. In England, boys from “good” families went to top schools, learned to speak proper English, as it was called, and then went on with their lives secure in whatever milieu they ended up in. Mind you, the moment a Brit opens his or her mouth, they immediately signal their background. At least they used to. Sometime toward the end of the last century a proper way to speak English became a no-no, thanks to the greatest threat of our time, the encroaching proletarian brutality enforced upon us by political correctness.
Thanks to the good old U.S. of A., people are still allowed to express certain truths without being banished to Devil’s Island. History has repeatedly proved that the nobility has always been better fitted for the business of ruling, in Europe, but not in the United States. Now we have a man from Queens, “Noo Yawk,” sitting in the White House, and snobs all over the place, including New York and California, are not best pleased. Some of the bleaters remind me of the snob I shredded couple of weeks ago high up in the Alps. Poor souls, they’ll have to live with it for a while.
So let the snobs among us have their day with Trump. I become a snob when I read Page Six about today’s celebrities. Or when I see criminals passing as rap stars, or what is considered as society today. Having good manners is the opposite of snobbery, something people tend to forget, especially young people. And there are a few good things about being a snob. It is the first step, in a somewhat convoluted way, of establishing one’s identity. In today’s modern age, having an identity is almost expressly inhibited. Even a snob is better than the faceless mobs screaming abuse so they can have their thirty seconds of fame on television. Even snobbery can be a good thing by comparison.