EDITOR’S PERSPECTIVE: Nothing much to be smug about

AS undeservedly smug as someone swinging a see-through bag containing an expensive artisan loaf while sipping on a lifestyle coffee, furry hood pulled snugly around fat face, I smiled to myself, pleased with my perfect putdown of the overweight idiot who, ignoring my attempt to leave the pavement for him to pass, merely staggered into me, landing a hefty boot on my toe in the process.

“D***head,” I had muttered under my breath, just loud enough that he might possibly hear and, if he did, safe in the knowledge I could out-run him, but also quiet enough that it might not come to that.

Smugness is never a good trait. Not when your football team beats that of a family or friends, not when you do better in an exam than a mate or even someone you don’t like, not when you go on a more expensive holiday than someone you know or buy a bigger, better car than them.

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Maybe winning at chess (I can’t play), being a Mastermind champion, appearing on University Challenge, completing a Wordle (the use of this word won’t age well) on the second line, or landing an arrow in the eye of your opponent from long distance in 1066 allows the victor the right to a slight smirk of celebration.

Aside from the very occasional display of verbal dexterity — “d***head” — and an undefeated Connect 4 run of many years (I don’t play too often), I’m not sure I’ve done enough to warrant an overt display of smugness and, if I had, my attempt at that self-satisfied smirk would probably only serve to make me resemble an actor playing a seedy bloke in a slightly twee TV crime drama (now that’s why I keep getting typecast). Midsomer Murders anyone?

Like the scene in the Royle Family where the father of Antony’s girlfriend lords it over Jim about his car and fur coat and asks him how often he goes ski-ing (try saying you enjoyed the apres-ski without coming across as a smug git), I’ve met many people whose determination to let you know they are better than you has overstepped the mark that has them nailed as merely a bragger, or a “big headed pillock” as my dad might have said.

These people go for meals that cost more than yours, drink in city view rooftop bars that are full of other people too busy posting pictures of themselves to actually appreciate their situation, buy clothes that don’t suit them but are too expensive to resist and prefer Michael McIntyre to, say, Kevin Bridges or Micky Flanagan.

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So my brief feeling of self-righteousness quickly disappeared as I realised I had not managed to pull off any great verbal wordsmithery, but merely reverted to typical baseness. The appreciative nod and smile I allowed myself at my delivering of the word “d***head” gave way to a scrunched-eyed cringe as I realised my dad was right, the word “pillock” would have been much better. An unusual insult, under-used in modern times but worthy of pulling out of the lexicography locker room on the odd occasion.

The cringe then gave way to a desire to hastily leave the scene as I tripped over the next available tree root.

“D***head” I muttered to myself, turning to deliver an icy stare at the offending disease-ridden leafy-branched nuisance.

Lesson learned. Smugness, like the expensive coffee you bought to help you keep warm while others sleep in shop doorways this winter, only lasts for a brief period.


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