The Star Tribune probably receives lots of letters to the editor saying the paper has made a reader’s day. It might not get as many thanking it for transforming someone’s life. Yet such is the magic that the Readers Write column — and one letter specifically — wrought on mine this past weekend.
I went into Saturday happy enough with my lot, but humble. A jobbing journo scraping by in a suburban semi-detached just outside London working — like most journalists these days — a Proper Day Job to make ends meet.
Yet by the time my friend from Eau Claire, Wis., messaged me a picture of the letters page on Sunday lunchtime, one of the writers, responding to an article of mine that had appeared in this newspaper (“It’s a bumper year for boors in Britain,” June 2), had promoted me to “a British media elite”!
Imagine my happiness, and also surprise.
What with all the Merriam-Webstering, the letter writer seems keen on dictionaries, so I would love to ask him at what point “elite” morphed to mean the exact opposite of what most of us always thought “elite” meant?
As a keen student of language myself (we can always keep working on our skillsets, as my parents kept telling me before my whirlwind promotion), I am fascinated to learn from the letter writer that “elite” now means “average, jobbing, rank-and-file type.”
I do love the changes in language over time. I just didn’t realize they could be accomplished — à la Humpty Dumpty — instantly, at will, and to mean whatever we like.
After all, the only other explanation would be that the letter writer was doing exactly what Donald Trump, Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson et al. — whom he seems keen to defend — are so wont to do, yelling “Elites!” whenever they see something they disagree with.
This does seem out of character, however, since elsewhere the letter writer limits himself to perfectly reasoned engagement with the points he objected to in my article — for example, by mimicking a bizarrely over-the-top, 18th-century aristocratic British accent.
I sense that the poor letter writer would be every bit as crestfallen as I am to hear the common-or-garden, commuter-belt Mockney I have had since birth. (In a strangely un-elite piece of concrete called Slough, of “The Office” and “come friendly bombs and fall in Slough/It isn’t fit for humans now” fame — I imagine that’s just what Martha’s Vineyard is like?)
Ah well, that blue-collar start is all behind me now I am a member of some shadowy global elite!
As you can imagine, I am quite run off my feet informing my employers (I wish they would stop looking at me like that) and updating my Twitter bio.
Now, where do I send my application to join this “Deep State” I keep hearing so much about?
I am hoping my miraculous benefactor will tell me I am already a member of this, too.
Matt Potter lives on the outskirts of London but now sees Davos in his future.