What is a smartypants, exactly? Let’s check in with an assortment of sources in defining that term. First, as any 14-year-old would advise, I asked Siri.
When asked, Siri told me that a “smartypants” was another term for a smart person or a ‘know-all.’
Next, I consulted a dictionary. It told me that it was a slang term for ‘smart aleck’ or ‘smarty.’
In a recent survey (my own) U.S. adults between 40-70 years old, when asked, “What do you think of when you hear the term, ‘smartypants’? responded:
- Someone precocious and delightfully intelligent
- Someone who is arrogant
- A term of endearment used for my children
- Someone who shows intelligence
- Jealous person calling names
- A sassy child
- I think of it as positive. I take it, and use it, as a compliment. Being smart is always a good thing
- Something that doesn’t translate for my husband because in the UK, ‘pants’ means underwear
In full disclosure, I have a bias. I AM a smartypants. I was a smartypants as a child and believed that to mean that I was bright, precocious, creative, quick, and delightful! I hope that I still am all of those things! Likely, due to my parents’ modeling and the other primary social inputs impacting my formative years, I suppose I chose to notice those messages that supported the positive aspects of the word “smartypants” and did not pay much attention to the negative attributes of the word. My research, though, has clearly shown that negative associations exist for some, and since my primary interest is in the use of this word in work settings, I might surmise then, that there is mixed receptivity of this word in workplaces as well.
Here begins my official uprising against all negative associations with the term, “smartypants” (in U.S. contexts).
I start heretofore, on this day, a movement wherein all persons regardless of intelligence – even those with extremely high intelligence and precociousness and creativity – can revel in those traits comfortably and not feel the need to reticently slouch into the mediocrity of many workplace cultures. That bar is too low for smartypants. This kind of diversity has not been comfortable to express for too long!
Furthermore, I challenge managers and leaders everywhere (many of them smartypants themselves) to step up and provide the kind of rigorous support and development opportunity at work that smartypants need in order to thrive.
Smartypants, you know who you are. I’ve seen you, and you’ve seen me see you. You know you are proud. No longer do you need to hide your smile when someone calls you “smartypants” or offers you a “stretch assignment.” No more must you contain your giddy giggles when your boss asks if you’d like to take on a special project or delete your Mensa membership from your LinkedIn profile page so that you don’t call attention to yourself.
Smartypants of the world, unite!
Perhaps a year from now, Siri’s answer will have changed. . . a true measure of success?
I’d love to hear your thoughts . . .
Smartypants stickers, buttons, and mugs coming soon at http://workingsmarts.com. 😉