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bluestocking A woman of intellectual attainments or pretensions. Most sources agree that the term originated in 18th-century Britain in reference to certain gatherings of both men and women at which literary discussion replaced the former usual cardplaying. However, sources do not agree on whose receptions or whose stockings actually gave rise to the phrase. Regardless of the wearer or wearers, bluestocking appears to have reflected the casual dress accepted in these intellectual circles, the blue worsted being in opposition to the formal conventional black silk. Little used today, the term was derogatory both in its reference to dress and in its subsequent reference to the women who sought intellectual parity with men. In the Colonial United States, however, the term was interchangeable with blueblood and simply meant one of aristocratic birth or superior social standing.
bookworm One who seems to be nurtured and sustained through constant reading; one whose nose is always buried in a book; a bibliophile. This term derives from different kinds of maggots that live in books and destroy them by eating holes through the pages. However, one source suggests that the term alludes to the Biblical passage in which an angel says to St. John in regard to a scroll:
Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey. (Revelations 10:9)
The term appeared in print in its figurative sense as early as 1599. It is usually used negatively to connote those qualities characteristic of a pedant.
double dome An intellectual or scholar, a highbrow or longhair. This rather derogatory American slang expression is of fairly recent coinage and would appear to be a humorous takeoff on dome, slang for head since the late 19th century. Double dome not only brings to mind the notion of a double head, and thus twice the average intelligence, but also the image of a particularly high forehead, once believed to be a mark of higher-than-average intelligence.
egghead An intellectual or highbrow, an academician or longhair. This disparaging term for an intellectual owes its origin to the visual resemblance between the shape of an egg and the head of a person with a high forehead, the latter feature being considered a mark of superior intelligence. The term became popular during the 1952 presidential campaign when Adlai Stevenson was the Democratic candidate. His supporters, mostly members of the intelligentsia, were often labeled eggheads, perhaps in humorous reference to Stevenson’s own unusually high forehead, further accented by his baldness.
highbrow An intellectually and culturally superior person; an advocate of the arts and literature. The origin of this expression lies in the belief that people with high foreheads have a greater intellectual capacity. The term is often used disparagingly to describe anyone with intellectual interests. Variations of this expression include low-brow, a person of no breeding and negligible mental capacity; middle-brow, a person of mediocre intelligence and bourgeois tastes; and the place name Highbrowsville, a rarely used term for Boston, Massachusetts, once considered the hub of American intellectual life.
The strangely disreputable lady “Jazz”—disreputable because she was not sponsored by the highbrows. (S. R. Nelson, All About Jazz, 1934)