Garrison Keillor’s response to a letter asking what is fresh lutefisk?
“What is that?” No need to preface it with an apology. I say this from bitter experience, Sarah. I wasted some of the best years of my life in pretending to a worldly sophistication that stopped my education right in its tracks. Even today, people looking at me imagine that I know all sorts of things that in fact I’m stupid about. […] Remember this little life lesson, Sarah. Some of the great journalists of our time have found that nothing works so well in gathering information as a display of ignorance. Happy New Year. Garrison Keillor
I subscribe to A Prairie Home Companion’s weekly newsletter for one reason: to read the Post to the Host section. I love GK’s writing voice, his sense of pitch. He responds to random questions about writing, potato salad, giving a eulogy, bookstores, sons who lose a writing contest, music, and the meaning of fresh lutefisk. [his full response to Sarah can be found by scrolling to the bottom of the link.] If you enjoy this, there are archives back to January 1997.
False sophistication. Guilty as charged. Bluffer, nodder, phony me. Feigned comprehension. I remember the day in 1982 when my SIL said she was feeling ambiguous and I had no clue what she meant but murmured a vague response to cover up my ignorance. The person who helps me the most in this area is my cousin’s wife, who freely and naturally says “I don’t know what that word means; could you explain it?” It is so refreshing. No pretense. No sham. Ask and it shall be given to you…