Damon Young: 10 small words that’ll convince people you’re a BIG BRAIN BOY

(Monique Wray for The Washington Post)
(Monique Wray for The Washington Post)


I’ve always thought that the saying “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room” was weird because, well, someone has to be the smartest person in the room, right? That’s just how rooms, and math, work. Unless, of course, the person who coined it envisioned “rooms” as some sort of series of interconnected wormholes where the smartest people float in and out like an infinite round of “duck, duck, goose.”

Anyway, I’ve never been interested in being the smartest person in any room. (I’m barely interested in being in rooms.) But I do like the idea of people believing that I am. And one way to accomplish this that doesn’t scream “HEY EVERYONE, I’M BIG BRAIN BOY COME LOOK AT MY BIG BRAIN” is the strategic incorporation of a select few smart-sounding, small words into my lexicon. I’m feeling magnanimous today and want to pull the curtain back on the gospel of the BIG BRAIN, so here’s 10 to help you be more like me.

A regular-brain person might say something like “That chair is heavy.” And you would know that the chair is, um, heavy. You might need some help to move it. But a BIG BRAIN BOY would say, “That chair has heft.” And then the listener will wonder if the chair is just physically heavy, or if maybe the chair dropped out of flight school to pursue a PhD in applied developmental psychology.

Few things on ERarth are loved as much as writers love the following things:

1. To remind everyone that they’re a “writer” and how traumatic the act of writing is.

3. To drop heat-seeking “rigor” bombs on people’s heads.

Regular-brain person: This bread is tasty.

Writer-brain person: Yes, but does it have rigor?

Regular-brain person: Delete my number.

The most fun part of using revise is when you completely alter the meaning of a simple sentence with out-of-context but still grammatically correct substitutions. It’s like someone asking for hot tea, and you giving them a warm cup of bone broth instead.

For instance, the next time you go to Jiffy Lube, tell them that you think your oil needs to be revised.

A hallmark of BIGBRAINBOYNESS is a general cynicism about the world. Only the regular-brained have the space to possess optimism, because the BIG BRAIN BOY subscribes to the Atlantic, still has a pandemic beard and is OVER IT. A great way to communicate this nihilism is to refer to aggressively unterrible things as either “grim” or “dire.”

If seven people are in front of you in line at Starbucks, the line isn’t “too long.” No, the line is grim. And if your order comes out slightly wrong, it’s not disappointing. It’s dire.

“Can you scale this?” said the BIG BRAIN BOY to the confused cable guy, who literally just asked if he wanted to place the router behind his couch.

This is one of the rare big-brained small words that work equally well as a noun, a verb and an adjective. If you truly wish to expose a regular-brained commoner to your stroke-inducing BIG BRAIN BOY brilliance, slide up next to them and whisper, “I was prompt to prompt the prompt.”

(Be careful to enunciate, though, because they might just think you’re beatboxing.)

Any common-brained schmo can use edit as a verb. Children can do that. Babies. Puppies, even. Only the most evolved of the brains would even think to use “edit” as a noun, and in a wildly improper and chaotic context.

Person in bed with a BIG BRAIN BOY: Do you mind if we switch positions?

BIG BRAIN BOY: Let me see that edit!

I was unable to scale the prompt, because the rigorous heft of the edit was just too grim of a lift.

Lift, as a noun

“I was unable to scale the prompt, because the rigorous heft of the edit was just too grim of a lift.”

Brave, as a verb

One of my favorite discoveries of the past several years is learning how a slight alteration of the use of “brave” makes people want to donate my brain to science. Or maybe it just makes them want to kill me. Either way, I discontinued my use of the simple-brain “brave” (“I was brave to eat that ice cream, despite my lactose intolerance”) to make space for the big-brain “brave” (“I braved that ice cream”).

I have more, but 10 is enough for now. The room isn’t big enough for two BIG BRAIN BOYS to fit.

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