Snob: a bully by another name;Opinion

8th January 1999 at 00:00
WHAT ACTUALLY is a snob? I didn't get this one from a cracker but from the enquiring mind of my eldest. Children tend to save up such questions for one's favourite programme (in my case the two-hour Channel 4 Frasier fest on New Year's Day). At first I thought Sarah was referring to the character of Frasier Crane himself. After all Kelsey Grammer plays a man who will buy a painting or bottle of wine not because he likes it but because he knows others will think well of him for doing so.

Such a person has no concept of intrinsic value. He "judges people and things by externals", or so my dictionary says. And this is what I told Sarah Jane because I was keen to get back to Dr Crane. But 12-year-olds don't let you off that easily. Why, she wanted to know, did various boys at our local comprehensive consider her to be a "snobby cow"? Why on the last day of term did one of them steal her calculator and smash it while two others lobbed a can of Coke in her direction?

Were I not still seething over the calculator affair I might have suggested that what we were actually looking at here was a typographical error. After all, snobs do not spend all Christmas in their dressing gowns, prone in front of the soap specials, trying to perfect a Brookside accent. Snobs don't pass Christmas on a diet of pizza and seasonal choccies. Snobs don't upset their mothers by declaring our traditional Christmas lunch "yuk". Slobs, yes. Snobs, no.

Snobs are men like Frasier Crane who is, by all accounts, the most popular character in American TV comedy since Sergeant Bilko. Snobs love Frasier but so do New York cabbies, dental hygienists in LA and a large proportion of the US prison population. Channel 4 audiences love Frasier too.

But it is one of the sadnesses of British life for me that the average, intolerant class-conscious Brit can accept an American sit-com sympathetic to high-earning professionals who long for the good things in life because that's America. What the British can't seem to accept is a child at school who talks with a different accent or whose parents spend their money on a fancy new calculator. Her they judge from a distance, by the externals, in fact. Just as a snob would.

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