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Bookish Pet Peeve #4: The One Upper

Tell me if you know this guy.

You’re out to lunch, maybe shooting the breeze over the water cooler at work, chatting with a friend about the books you’ve recently read.

This guy, the annoying guy known as the “One Upper” approaches at about the same time you mention reading A Portrait of The Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce.

“That’s the first time I’ve read James Joyce,” you say to your friend.

Like a literary bloodhound, the One-Upper sniffs an opportunity to inflate his ginormous ego.

“Portrait!” he says. “I read that Joyce in 9th grade. It’s so simple compared to Ulysses. You must read Ulysses if you really want to see Joyce in his element.”

At this point, feeling a little dejected, you nod your head. “Thanks,” you say.

Your friend pipes in. “I read Ulysses last summer,” he says.

“Did you?” the One-Upper responds. “How would you say it compares to Finnegans Wake—a true Joycean masterpiece?”

“I can’t say I’ve read Finnegans Wake,” your friend responds.

“Pity” says the One-Upper. “I thought most every serious reader had read Finnegans Wake! It’s such a light, charming story!”

And on and on the conversation goes, eventually coming to a halt when the One Upper claims to have read every single volume of the Encyclopedia Brittanica.

“It’s great reading for the weekend,” he says.

Everybody knows a one-upper, right? This skit on Portlandia does a much better job of illustrating these annoying people.

Books might not be their thing. Maybe it’s telling you about how awesome their weekend was, or how much more smarter or beautiful their kids are than yours.

Oh, they don’t say they think your kids are ugly. They don’t outright say they think their taste in reading is infinitely better than yours. But that’s basically what they’re saying.

Stupid one uppers.

The temptation is to compete with the One Upper, but by playing their game, you become a One Upper yourself. Don’t do that.

A battle between two one uppers is like watching two douchebag gym rats debate who has the bigger muscles and better hair. Really, they’re debating who has the lower self-esteem.

Do not engage the One Uppers. Do not look them directly in the eye. You cannot win.

Down with the One Uppers!

Previous Bookish Pet Peeves:

#3 The Book Snob

#2 The Nosey Over-The-Shoulder Reader

#1 Bookstore Cell Phone Blabbermouth

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27 Comments Post a comment
  1. I’ve probably been this person in the past, unintentionally. Mine is more from excitement that people are talking about books and reading. That’s a conversation I always want in on!

    Like

    October 4, 2013
  2. sally1137 #

    I know a One-upper. He’s way more annoying than your One-upper. 🙂

    Like

    October 4, 2013
  3. I remember when I used to blog. Man those were the days. Around the birth of the internet I seem to recall.

    Like

    October 4, 2013
  4. Same goes for some writers. ‘Oh, you’ve just finished a short story? I’m on my seventh novel now, should have it done by the weekend in time to finish my anthology of poetry and go to eight different readings of my work. Quiet week, really.’

    Like

    October 4, 2013
  5. I used to have a friend like that. And once you notice they’re a one-upper its impossible to like them anymore

    Like

    October 4, 2013
    • So true. The feeling that they always have to show you up is not attractive.

      Like

      October 4, 2013
  6. Yes, I get it with some other mothers. I have “only” one kid, so I sometimes get variations of “That’s hard, right, with one? So you can imagine how hard it is with two.” They’ll complain how hard they have it with multiple kids but then judge me for having only one. I don’t get it. I’m too polite to say anything back so I deal with it by making sure I don’t have to deal with it anymore – I drop them down on my friendship totem pole.

    Like

    October 4, 2013
  7. I haven’t met any one uppers when it comes to reading but I agree with you that they’re everywhere!

    Like

    October 4, 2013
  8. Finnegan’s Wake isn’t so much for reading through as it is for perusing. I call Shenanigans on One Upper guy. I think I would’ve “accidentally” spilled my water on that guy. 🙂

    Like

    October 4, 2013
  9. Denise #

    Even worse than the One Uppers, are the ones that always have it worse off than you. So you express that you had a rough day, but their day was so much worse because… and …. and ….. Oops, did I just One Down your blog post? 🙂

    Like

    October 4, 2013
    • Good point. Would those be one downers?

      Like

      October 4, 2013
  10. So true!

    Like

    October 4, 2013
  11. Or when you try to express why you didn’t like a certain book and the One-Upper says something like, “Oh, you clearly didn’t understand the piece. Not everyone has that intelligence level. What a shame. Go back to reading your comic books.” I see that more on message boards than I do in real life, but it’s still disheartening. Not for me, but for them. I feel bad that they have such a low opinion of themselves that they need to lower everyone else to raise themselves up.
    –JW

    Like

    October 4, 2013
  12. There used to be a Saturday skit. Two guys sitting up in the sky on a building that looks like part of a skyscraper they’re building. One guy says to another, “You know last night I hit my thumb with a hammer. That hurt.” The other guy says, “You think that hurt. This morning I drove a nail into my head.” Each of them keeps trying to top the other with how he hurt himself.

    Like

    October 4, 2013
  13. The best thing about dealing with a “one upper” is seeing how the person doesn’t know how to respond when you won’t play their game. It’s like playing tennis; you just don’t hit the ball back. It feels great!

    Liked by 1 person

    October 5, 2013
  14. kansamuse #

    I most lately been this person at times and a downer too. Lately I been really trying not to be either one. . I have know both the the types and they are so annoying.

    Like

    October 7, 2013

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. My Bitchin’ Rundown (September 29 to 5 October) | Bitches With Books
  2. Bookish Pet Peeve #5: The Book Borrower | 101 Books
  3. Bookish Pet Peeve #6: Speed Reading | 101 Books
  4. Bookish Pet Peeve #7: Buying Books I Don’t Read | 101 Books
  5. Bookish Pet Peeve #8: Preachy Authors | 101 Books
  6. Bookish Pet Peeve #9: Snobby Authors | 101 Books
  7. Bookish Pet Peeve #10: Book Trailers | 101 Books
  8. Bookish Pet Peeve #11: The Coffee Shop Writer | 101 Books

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