8 phrases pretentious people use to sound smarter than they really are

“Case in point, however, I believe your assessment is not entirely correct…”

You look at the guy sitting across the table from you and roll your eyes. Ugh. Nate’s at it again.

Don’t pretentious people just drive you mad? It’s like they went through the whole English dictionary in one afternoon just to find the most intelligent and pompous-sounding phrases that they can whip out during any discussion.

As annoying as pretentious phrases can be, though, let’s keep in mind that people who rely on big words to sound smarter than they really are probably do so out of insecurity. Many don’t actually mean to be irritating – they just don’t know any better.

If you use the following 8 phrases or know a friend who does, consider what true intelligence is really about: wisdom.

And wisdom is as simple as the most basic vocabulary.

1) “This is so [insert a fancy word]”

When a pretentious person stumbles upon a new fancy word, they log it in their brain for future use. Then they forcefully push it into contexts where it doesn’t fit.

“Ah, this is such a splendiferous evening!”

“This party is so lackadaisical, let’s go dance!”

“What a flamboyant bow tie you’re wearing!”

While your assumption may be that the more fancy words you use, the smarter you’ll sound, the complete opposite is the case.

Words that don’t fit the context – for instance, using “splendiferous” in the company of people whose lives don’t revolve around literature – make you sound like you’re trying to prove that you’re more intellectual than everyone else.

And even if that is the case, the fact that you’re striving to impress others by using fancy words decreases your standing in their eyes.

Fancy words only work in fancy settings, and even then… it’s a tightrope to walk.

Simple language can be very powerful if you give it a chance.

2) “I think you will find…”

Ah. The most irritating of phrases.

“I think you will find” communicates three things.

One, it shows disrespect for the other person’s point of view because it assumes you will win them over from the get-go.

Two, it signals such strong confidence in what you’re saying that it borders on blind conviction.

And three, it makes you sound like you’re trying to appear smarter than you are.

Plus, if your opinion is incorrect, you come out of the situation feeling very humbled and ashamed.

“I think you will find that oranges are, in fact, a vegetable…”

I will not, sir.

3) “With all due respect…”

“With all due respect” is a bit of a contradictory phrase.

It usually comes before you say something offensive or disrespectful as if saying you respect the person somehow balances out the obvious lack of respect that follows.

“With all due respect, I believe your opinion is entirely wrong.”

Where is the respect? Because I can’t see it. The arrogance is too blinding.

Of course, the phrase also sounds fancy, which makes it a bit of a trap for people who want to seem more intelligent. They might think that the smarter they sound, the more power their arguments hold.

But in the end, it doesn’t matter what words you use to convey the message. Language is the decoration – the meaning is the room itself.

What you say has more weight than how you say it.

4) “Indeed”

Don’t get me wrong, I love “indeed”. I use it in my writing all the time.

But that’s precisely the point. “Indeed” belongs in the written word, together with phrases like “undoubtedly”, “case in point”, and “nonetheless”.

When you write those phrases in the proper context, they sound great. But when you say them out loud, it’s way too easy to sound a bit silly.

Just try it: “Yes, indeed.”

Chances are, you’ll sound like you’re on BBC news or in The Crown. Kind of like you’re putting on a theatre play.

5) “Albeit”

Similarly, using archaic words can make you look just as silly – if not more.

“Hereafter, I shall break my fast at noon.” What a strange way to describe intermittent fasting.

Okay, okay. I get it. Almost no one speaks like that unless they’re joking around with their friends. But the point is, small archaic phrases can slip into ordinary speech if you watch too many medieval TV shows or read a lot of history fiction, and if you think it makes you sound smart, think again.

More often than not, people will think you’re living in a fantasy series and aren’t self-aware enough to notice how strange you sound.

“It was a wonderful performance, albeit too short for my liking.”

Try switching to this: “It was amazing, but a bit too short.”

The message is the same, and you’ll seem less pretentious. A win-win!

6) “Your assessment is correct”

Let’s talk about academic language.

As a recent graduate, I spent the last five years listening to and writing in academic jargon, and while it can sure as hell make you sound clever, there’s a thin line between smart and pretentious.

“I think you’re right. It’s really interesting to me how the idea of intersectionality feeds into the concept of narrating the city in this book.” It sounds fancy, but seeing as all the high-level terms serve a clear function in the sentence, you’re likely to actually come across as pretty clever.

“Your assessment is correct. I find the way in which the idea of intersectionality catapults our understanding of narrating the city into new heights absolutely refreshing.” Uhm. Okay, Mr Smart?

Remember – it’s always better to say something simple than something pompous and pretentious.

7) “Touché”

“Why didn’t you say anything all evening?”

“Maybe because you went on and on about maths?”

“Touché.”

While the function of touché is actually pretty great – it means that you’re acknowledging someone’s made a good counterargument against you – many people find it to be quite pretentious.

Some amazing alternatives include:

“Good point.”

“Fair enough.”

“You’re right.”

8) “I only read the classics”

We’ve reached the last – and my least favorite – phrase!

As someone who studied literature at university, I believe that all kinds of literature are valuable in one way or another. You don’t need to read Charles Dickins to be a cultured person.

Different books serve different purposes, and they’re all valid no matter if they’ve been written to entertain, educate, record, or perform some form of transgressive art.

If you say you only ever read the classics, you are essentially saying that you read solely what the academic world considers good enough. In other words, you’re following the rules certain intellectuals set up for you in order to look smarter.

But that’s not smart. That’s narrow-minded.

So, circling back to the first point of this article…if you want to sound smart, be wise. Be open-minded. Be open to feedback.

Don’t hide behind fancy words. You’re enough.

Denisa Cerna

Hi! I’m a fiction author and a non-fiction freelance writer with a passion for personal development, mental health, and all things psychology. I have a graduate degree in Comparative Literature MA and I spend most of my time reading, travelling, and – shocker – writing. I’m always on a quest to better understand the inner workings of the human mind and I love sharing my insights with the world. If any of my articles change your life for the better… mission accomplished.
Get in touch at denisacerna.writing@gmail.com or find me on LinkedIn.

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