Surviving Awkward Social Situations

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The French writer Flaubert dreamt up the satirical “Dictionary of Received Ideas,” a reference guide to positions and thoughts that “right-thinking people” ought to hold for various subjects. The Point, a new journal in our library, saw it fitting to amend the work. “Social situations have arisen of which Flaubert could not have dreamed,” writes Justin Evans, “while others have fallen away, and now as then the good citizen needs an aide for those tricky moments in life when saying or thinking the wrong thing could lead to social disaster.”

Evans keeps a few of Flaubert’s entries, but most are new. Note: The ~ symbol is used to refer back to the original term, and words in italics are defined elsewhere.

Here’s a sampling:

Beard: a common symbol of individuality.

Conversation: “~ is a lost art, I’m afraid.” Blame electronic media.

Darwin: i) always right. ii) always wrong.

Hamlet: over-identify with him.

Heat: “it’s not so much the ~ as the humidity.”

Lawyers: mock ~, but want your children to become them.

Martyr: don’t be one: it’s irritating.

Pirates: back in style!

White people: mock what ~ like, particularly their ideals.

Source: The Point (article not available online)

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