Thursday, July 20, 2006

"Going to school in Boston"

In response to Tyler Cowen's call for examples of counter-signaling, Will Wilkinson offered up the example of Harvard grads who say they went to school "up in Boston." Julian Sanchez finds this practice, when done to avoid some presumed discomfort arising from the audience's sense of inferiority, objectionable.

I admit to sometimes using the "up in Boston" locution to avoid, as Sanchez puts it, "being mistaken for one of those folks who drops the H-bomb into every conversation" or to avoid being asked questions about my experience (the makers of Legally Blonde can drop dead). There are people, however, who have a strong negative reaction to the reminder that others have attended more prestigious universities. See, for example, this post of mine from last year's bar exam, discussing how wearers of Ivy League school shirts were condemned (by a graduate of another prestigious institution, no less) for making graduates of Tier 3 schools feel inferior by our very presence. If the passive medium of a t-shirt is so offensive to some, surely some sensitive persons would be scarred by the actual mention of Harvard in conversation.

Sanchez underestimates the extent to which many people are thin-skinned babies.
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