HowTo:Be pretentious

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So, you've decided you want to be pretentious- felicitations! Maybe it was watching an episode of "Frasier" and thinking "I wish I could patronise people like that" which inspired you, or perhaps you're just frustrated by the tedium of your existence and wish to massage your ego. Well, for whatever reason, you've made the decision, and so the most difficult part is over; soon you'll be exchanging witticisms with men called Edwardo whilst sipping pinot noir in a French restaurant, the name of which you don't understand but can pronounce far better than some layman.

However, should your skin color be of a darker persuasion, depart immediately before we are forced to take legal action.


"Marry, to the shops I am going, Horatio"

Being able to quote a wealth of high-brow literature is essential to good pretentiousness, as nothing says "I'm better than you and I know it" better than dropping a line of Wordsworth into a conversation, no matter how irrelevant the actual line is. However, many people find memorising vast chunks of multi-purpose writing challenging, and so an easier option is available: Simply take whatever you would have said (e.g., "I see what you mean, Alan") and reverse the order of the words, a la Yoda ("What you mean I see, Alan"); modify the verbs and pronouns to make them sound non-specifically Shakespearean ("What thou meanst I see, Alan"); and finally, replace the name of the subject with "Horatio" ("What thou meanst I see, Horatio"). Almost anyone will now believe this is a Hamlet quotation, and you can thereby further heighten your air of arrogant self-assurance.


As well as showing an interest in Great Literature, you have to also gain an eclectic taste in Music. Philip Glass. That is all you need. No-one will dare question your level of refinement if you say Philip Glass is your favourite composer, if only for fear of bringing upon themselves a hyperbole-laden explanation of why his music is so "good".

As a back up, learn to waffle about Rachmaninov and how you think the Russian piano sound is just so effective in his concertos, especially in his unique use of modulations. On the off-chance that the person you are talking to genuinely knows something about classical music and recognises that you are talking complete bollocks (which is an extremely slim chance, even if they do know something about music) then don't panic- just ask them whether they think Beethoven belongs more to the classical or the romantic movement and, during the ensuing diatribe, sneak away without them noticing.



How much of your furniture is beige? If anything below 90%, your style is just terribly out of date. Grey is also acceptable, although many consider it not neutral enough.

If an Englishman's house is his castle then yours should be your penis- it should occupy your thoughts and discussion as much as is humanly possible, and its size and attractiveness should be the source of all your worldly pride. As you get used to your pretentiousness an obsession with the property market should naturally develop without much conscious input. You will hopefully find yourself irrationally interested in the prices of houses in "desirable areas" despite having no intention of buying one, and the decoration and redecoration of your own house should be perennial and eternal. The sitting room will never be quite right, and the minor imperfections of your dwelling will forever be a source of horrible dissatisfaction to you, but still you should inform everyone you know of how wonderful it is on a regular basis in specific and lengthy terms, while the superiorities of their house to yours will gnaw away at the festering pit of your soul.


"Cheeky, elusive... I'm getting notes of... iron? Oh shit, this is blood."

Here we come to the real proving ground of the bourgeoisie - a certified smug bastard should be able to spout crap about wine until the proverbial cows come home.[1] Exactly how to do so is a judgement matter, but the following words and phrases are generally useful:

  • "More nose than Cyrano de Bergerac"
  • "Insincere my wife's last anniversary present"
  • "The body of a Vietnamese prostitute"
  • "Less leg than a thalidomide baby"
  • "A subtle hint of (INSERT RANDOM THING HERE), stimulating the palate without overpowering the (INSERT SECOND RANDOM THING HERE) undertones." For example, "A subtle hint of Benson & Hedges, stimulating the palate without overpowering the newly mown hay undertones."

Also, it is generally essential to talk about the wine as if it is a person. As you become more drunk you may notice yourself describing it more in terms of a person you are wildly attracted to (Rich, fruity body... Enticing aroma... God, I'm bored with my wife...) but this is perfectly acceptable.


The first rule of snobby gossip is that you must never refer to it as "gossip": it is always "news". The second rule is that it must always be negative "news" about a person, but disguised as concern for them. This applies even if the "news" in question is quite positive- for example, the birth of a new baby to a recently married young couple should be presented as worry over whether or not they can actually support a child on the salary that he's earning at the moment (i.e. anything below £50k a year), or if a person seems to be enjoying themselves at a party (which, of course, isn't what your sort of parties should be about) a veiled comment should be made about them being back on the bottle, regardless of whether they have been drinking or have even previously had a reputation for drunkenness... The vital point is they will have now.


Ahahaha! Oh my, I haven't been so entertained since the Admiral's cocktail party. Which I was at. Yes, I know an Admiral. Ahahaha!

Last, but by no means least, the ability to "entertain" a group of people with a snobby anecdote is possibly the most important aspect of being pretentious. An ideal anecdote should culminate in a line such as this:

" So I said to the Mother Superior, 'I'm sorry, I thought you said hassock' "

<Cue supercilious laughter>

An anecdote finishing in such a way should, thanks to its foppishly inane nature, convince everyone of your certifiable pompousness, regardless of how much sense the preceding story made. Remember, anecdotes should only be "funny" in the way that a Ben Jonson play is- you laugh at the jokes, but only so that the people around you know that you've understood them. Although you didn't.


If you can follow all these points without suddenly realising what a complete prat you're being then congratulations; you have achieved true pretentiousness. No-one will ever question your refinement again, and even if they do you can just raise your eyebrows at them and they will spontaneously combust with the sheer shame of having cheeked someone so superior to them in every way. Or at least, you can imagine they will and it'll have the same effect- what you think is all that matters, after all.

^  Note that adding the word "proverbial" to almost any sentence makes it sound vastly more authoritative [2]

^  The same proverbially applies for the word "vastly"

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