When You Trying to Sound Smart

but you ain't, you get yourself in some trouble.

When I saw that one Rob Sheffield wrote an article called "'Blurred Lines': The Worst Song of This or Any Other Year" I clicked on the link, thinking I would like the piece, since I don't like the song. (Yes, I know that's a parody.)

Instead, I found an article I like even less than the song. Robin Thicke is crass and crude and commercial... but at least he doesn't pretend to be something else. Sheffield, however, is going to show off how much smarter he is than the pop stars about whom he writes... by saying things like:

"Also, in terms of geometry, it's impossible for lines to be blurred because lines are straight by definition. If they get blurred, they're not lines anymore. Then they're 'squiggles' or 'blotches' or something. This is just math, Robin Thicke!"

There are so many things wrong with this paragraph that it actually represents an amazing compaction of wrongness. First of all, Thicke is not writing a treatise on geometry. Secondly... no! Even in geometry, lines are not "straight by definition": "The [straight or curved] line is the first species of quantity, which has only one dimension, namely length, without any width nor depth, and is nothing else than the flow or run of the point which […] will leave from its imaginary moving some vestige in length, exempt of any width. […] The straight line is that which is equally extended between its points." Thirdly, "blurred" is not the opposite of "straight." And if you want to say that, "in terms of geometry" lines can't be blurred... well, "in terms of geometry," you actually can't see lines at all, since they have no width or depth! In other words, if we are going to talk about lines in the real world, blurred or not, metaphorical or not, we shouldn't expect them to have the properties of geometrical lines. And fourthly, "blurring the lines" is a trope that I heard as a little kid: if Sheffield wants to attack the trope, it is hardly fair to blame Thicke for it.

A little later, Sheffield writes, trying to mock a Vanessa Williams song: "'Sometimes the very thing you're looking for / Is the one thing you can't see' – what does that even mean? Why would you be looking for it if you could see it?"

Well, Rob, I think it means that "the thing" is not hidden, it is right out in the open, but the seeker keeps overlooking it. But really, you don't have to be a genius to figure that out: you just have to not be trying so hard to be smart that you lack all common sense.


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