The one-two punch of National Geographic‘s “Genius” series (Albert Einstein, Pablo Picasso, Mary Shelley) and Gabe Polsky‘s In Search of Greatness doc has made me irritable. Because I can’t stand that awful word, even though I use it from time to time. And not just the word but people who seem to say it a lot, or more frequently than once in a blue moon.
The first time I recoiled at the word “genius” was when a New York girlfriend was explaining that she was dropping me for a guy who had his own advertising agency, Geoffrey something-or-other, and that he was a “real genius.” Fuck that guy and fuck anyone who calls anyone else the g-word, I decided then and there.
Decades have passed but I’ve noticed time and again that people who say “genius” the most — sycophants, ass-kissers, headline writers, wives and girlfriends, employees, speechwriters, radio-talk-show hosts — have the same kind of obsequious attitude about X-factor people. That’s my preferred term, by the way. No allusions to any sort of God-given brilliance or incandescence, but definitely off in some other realm.
I first heard the term when I was six or seven, when my mother was telling me who Albert Einstein was, and that was long before he changed his name to Albert Brooks. All I know is that I decided a long time ago to throw a little stink-eye at anyone who says “genius” in conversation. It’s one thing to type it and be done with it, but saying it out loud is like chalk on a blackboard.