Lessening the Stigma Behind the Word, “Egghead”: Anti-Intellectualism and the United States

This topic has come and gone through my wired mind for the last year, the most profound time of rumination on the subject was during my reading of Philip K. Dick’s autobiographical thesis: The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick (2011), early in the year. PKD was subject to persecution and some frightening situations in his lifetime (i.e. there was an incident where his office was rigged with explosives, etc.) – due to the commentary and ideas in his science fiction novels being interpreted as “dangerous” by the autocrats of that time.

Despite knowing the distaste around the word “egghead” – in using the word in my username, I sought to destigmatize the once shameful term. I have a character with an egg as a skull, so… why the heck not? Furthermore, PKD had claimed that the origin of the word “egghead” actually has origins in Nazi Germany, and was carried over after World War II and then used by high-authority, North American figures (such as Richard Nixon, a United States president) to disparage astute thinkers.

PKD claimed in an interview for his novel, “The Man in the High Castle”, that the German word eierkopf was the origin for the English word: egghead. Indicating that Americans have possibly been using a Nazi insult to decry intellectualism for many, many decades – the last derisive use of the word was in 2008, in an article titled “Broken Eggheads Make No Omelets.” Which is disturbing, seeing as the Sturmabteilung regime used to beat people until “their skulls cracked readily against the pavement” [4], and thus their heads were compared to the fragile shells of eggs.

Like other phrases used by oppressive groups who have murdered innocent people and that have committed other terrible atrocities in the past, I think words like egghead should be reclaimed, as well as pro-intellectual thinking. The stigma surrounding the word shouldn’t be used against “eggheads”, but the people who are willing to use something with such terrible implications as an insult.

Sources and Additional Reading on the Subject

1. Aaron Lecklider, Inventing the Egghead: The Battle over Brainpower in American Culture (2013).

2. ^ Chris Roberts, Heavy Words Lightly Thrown: The Reason Behind Rhyme, Thorndike Press,2006 (ISBN 0-7862-8517-6)

3. ^ “Broken eggheads make no omelets”. Washington Times. Retrieved May 9, 2008.

4. ^ “Interview de Philip K Dick à Metz (France) 1977”. YouTube. 2013-09-19.

More about the character Luna, the figure behind the “EggheadLuna” mythos: https://eggheadluna.wordpress.com/2021/06/27/luna/

Published by EggheadLuna

H.E. Rodgers is the author of the Juniper's Tree series, also known as the 真柏Project. MyAnimeList: https://myanimelist.net/profile/Egghe... Twitter: https://twitter.com/EggheadLuna #真柏Project #JunipersTree

7 thoughts on “Lessening the Stigma Behind the Word, “Egghead”: Anti-Intellectualism and the United States

  1. While your cause is nice, I feel like no one says “egghead” anymore anyways. Feels too old school now compared to all the new names people throw around on the Internet, many of which I’m probably not even aware of. One of the newer ones that comes to mind is “smooth brained”.

    And even if it’s roots are from Nazi Germany, I can’t imagine many people really make that connection. Just speaking for myself, but I’ve never associated the term with oppression or murder. It’s more of a funny sounding term than anything else, and I don’t feel like “egghead” even has that strong of a “dumb” connotation compared to other terms.

    Interesting to think about, anyways, and I’m not American, so maybe my experiences aren’t quite accurate here.

    Like

    1. It is an archaic term, but the fact that it was carried over as an insult post-World War II is kind of disturbing… given its roots in the Third Reich. I meant the article as a think-piece, since smart people are usually demonized in pop-culture tropes. Plus, getting to write about Philip K. Dick is always fascinating – he was a really interesting guy!

      Like

      1. Even so I feel like there isn’t much of a stigma to begin with given that no one really knows about all of this (referring to the post title).

        But you are right that it’s an interesting bit of information. The history / origin of words is a really cool topic in general. I likely wouldve gone my whole life not knowing the origin of “egghead” haha. But now I know.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. So, how far back into the past do you chase down the etymology of words and ideas? And where do you draw the line? And what about words/ideas that have completely changed?

    Lots of questions, I know. But they all popped into my head while reading your post. And I’m with Yomu in that I haven’t heard the term “egghead” in real life since the 80’s and even then, most of it was from 1950’s era SF that I was reading 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Like with the past comments, it was more about the anti-intellectualism and origin (and less about it being a rampant social issue) – though, there can still be a stigma against being “too smart”.

      Liked by 2 people

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