Definition: Attempting to impress by affecting greater importance, talent, culture than is actually possessed.

Recently I have really rebuked myself for using this word, partly because every time I hear someone use it it makes me grumble and hiss, but also because I don't think it's a healthy opinion, particularly as a christian to hold.

I have learnt that what is pretentious to some is precious to others. I often throw the term around about certain academics and their literature, but who am I to devalue the hard work of someone who has dedicated years of research and study to bring that book or paper into my hands? Furthermore, although I may not find that theme or topic particularly relevant to my life etc. that person has actually taken the time to reveal a little more about humanity, the human condition and the culture and history of our planet. As for 'pretentious' language, just because someone has taken the time to develop their vocabulary beyond mine in order that their expression has more clarity and sharper precision doesn't mean I have the right to belittle them for it.

People often call university students pretentious which I can, in part, understand and there are some people I have met here in Bristol who really do seem to fit the term well. But that's the thing, they only 'seem' to fit the term. No one is really pretentious through and through and by writing someone off as pretentious I am not taking the time to understand and get to know them, let alone love them. On this topic, it really bugs me when people who have never experienced university judge students as being lazy, wealthy squanderers. I can only speak from my own experience, but it would be a pretty expensive mistake to go to university expecting to spend all your time partying and mincing around coffee shops. Most people have worked incredibly hard to get into university in the first place and are still dedicating a lot of time to their studies now. We enjoy learning (SHOCK HORROR!) It's so great to be a place where you can spend the whole afternoon discussing socialism, literature and grammar rules without being labeled as pretentious.

Ultimately I feel that the word pretentious comes from a place of insecurity. We label things as pretentious when we can't contribute to a conversation about them or when we are intimidated by someone's talent or intelligence. We write them off because we're too proud to admit that we are out of our depth. It's not an attractive term, it's not an encouraging term and, above all, it's not a godly term. Who are we to judge people and their interests? Who are we to write off groups of people because we think they're too pretentious for grace? I would even go so far as to argue that if we call someone pretentious then we are actually putting a mirror in front of ourselves and turning the term back on us. Using this word implies that we believe that we are coming from a position of authority that allows us to have an opinion. I'm not advocating that we stop thinking critically about certain things, but when it comes to people we must make sure that what we're saying is constructive. If it's going to make a person feel inferior and discouraged, just don't say anything. You are not God.


  1. You are so wise! This is something I am also guilty of, but what you say makes so much sense.

    "Just because someone has taken the time to develop their vocabulary beyond mine in order that their expression has more clarity and sharper precision doesn't mean I have the right to belittle them for it."

  2. This is very good - The quote that Fiona (above or below this comment; I don't know which!) highlighted also particularly stood out for me. How you continue you have so many ideas for blogs is beyond me!!

    However, I disagree with one part. My opinion would be that labelling people as pretentious is rarely a simple case of judging people and/or their interests specifically...rather, criticizing the attitude in which those interests are communicated. Either way, you're right. Despite the temptation to make such labels, it's just not godly! I'm more than willing to admit that this is a personal challenge for me!