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Encyclopedia > Egghead
Adlai Stevenson was called an "egghead" by Richard Nixon during the 1952 US presidential race.
Adlai Stevenson was called an "egghead" by Richard Nixon during the 1952 US presidential race.

In the slang of the United States, egghead was an anti-intellectual epithet, directed at people considered too out-of-touch with ordinary people and too lacking in realism, common sense, virility, etc. on account of their intellectual interests. The term egghead reached its peak currency during the 1950s, when vice-presidential candidate Richard Nixon used it against Democrat Presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson. It is now rarely used, having been replaced in U.S. politics by other anti-intellectual epithets such as liberal elite, and socially by terms such as nerd and geek. Picture provided by Princeton Unv. ... Adlai Ewing Stevenson II (February 5, 1900 – July 14, 1965) was an American politician, noted for intellectual demeanor and advocacy of liberal causes in the Democratic party. ... Richard Milhous Nixon (January 9, 1913 – April 22, 1994) was the 37th President of the United States, serving from 1969 to 1974. ... Presidential electoral votes by state. ... Slang is the use of highly informal words and expressions that are not considered standard in the speakers dialect or language. ... Anti-intellectualism describes a sentiment of hostility towards, or mistrust of, intellectuals and intellectual pursuits. ... An epithet (Greek - επιθετον and Latin - epitheton; literally meaning imposed) is a descriptive word or phrase. ... The 1950s was the decade spanning the years 1950 to 1959. ... Richard Milhous Nixon (January 9, 1913 – April 22, 1994) was the 37th President of the United States, serving from 1969 to 1974. ... The Democratic Party is one of two major political parties in the United States, the other being the Republican Party. ... Adlai Ewing Stevenson II (February 5, 1900 – July 14, 1965) was an American politician, noted for intellectual demeanor and advocacy of liberal causes in the Democratic party. ... The examples and perspective in this article or section may not represent a worldwide view. ... Look up nerd in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Look up geek in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...


In his Pulitzer Prize-winning historical essay on American anti-intellectualism, historian Richard Hofstadter wrote: "During the campaign of 1952, the country seemed to be in need of some term to express that disdain for intellectuals which had by then become a self-conscious motif in American politics. The word egghead was originally used without invidious associations, but quickly assumed them, and acquired a much sharper tone than the traditional highbrow. Shortly after the campaign was over, Louis Bromfield, a popular novelist of right-wing political persuasion, suggested that the word might some day [sic] find its way into dictionaries as follows: The gold medal awarded for Public Service in Journalism The Pulitzer Prize is an American award regarded as the highest honor in print journalism, literary achievements, and musical compositions. ... Richard Hofstadter (August 6, 1916 - October 24, 1970) was a noted American historian and was the Dewitt Clinton Professor of American History at Columbia University. ... 1952 (MCMLII) was a Leap year starting on Tuesday (link will take you to calendar). ... Louis Bromfield, photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1933 Louis Bromfield (December 27, 1896 – March 18, 1956) is one of Mansfield, Ohios most famous natives, a man who became internationally renowned both as a prize-winning author and as an innovative conservationist and scientific farmer. ...

"Egghead: A person of spurious intellectual pretensions, often a professor or the protégé of a professor. Fundamentally superficial. Over-emotional and feminine in reactions to any problem. Supercilious and surfeited with conceit and contempt for the experience of more sound and able men. Essentially confused in thought and immersed in mixture of sentimentality and violent evangelism. A doctrinaire supporter of Middle-European socialism as opposed to Greco-French-American ideas of democracy and liberalism. Subject to the old-fashioned philosophical morality of Nietzsche which frequently leads him into jail or disgrace. A self-conscious prig, so given to examining all sides of a question that he becomes thoroughly addled while remaining always in the same spot. An anemic bleeding heart.

"'The recent election,' Bromfield remarked, 'demonstrated a number of things, not the least of them being the extreme remoteness of the 'egghead' from the thought and feeling of the whole of the people'" (Anti-Intellectualism in American Life [New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1963], pp. 9-10). Friedrich Nietzsche, 1882 Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (October 15, 1844 - August 25, 1900) was a highly influential German philosopher. ...


In their Dictionary of American Slang (1960; 2nd supplemented ed. 1975), Harold Wentworth and Stuart Berg Flexner cite two earlier meanings of egghead, one referring to baldness, the other to stupidity. Wentworth and Flexner note that the meaning under discussion here was "[p]op. during presidential campaign of 1952 when the supporters of Adlai Stevenson, Democratic candidate, were called eggheads. Thus orig. the term carried the connotation of 'politically minded' and 'liberal'; today its application is more general. May have originated in ref. to the high forehead of Mr. Stevenson or of the pop. image of an academician" (p. 171). Stuart Berg Flexner is a lexicographer, editor and author, noted for his books on the origins of American words and expressions, including I Hear America Talking and Listening to America; as co-editor of the Dictionary of American Slang; and as chief editor of the Random House Dictionary, Second Edition. ...


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