12/9/2000:

SAT-Practice Word of the Day: ornate
Intermediate Word of the Day: Harpy
Difficult Word of the Day: litotes

Gifted Guidebook:
    Andrea Lobel and I have been collaborating on a draft of a "Guidebook for the Severely Gifted". The idea is that there would seem to be lessons and techniques for getting along in the world that might be sharable with others. I can't speak for Andrea, but I know that for my part, I would welcome your inputs regarding such "lessons in the art of living". Such a handbook, although inspired by the needs of the severely gifted, if we can do it right, could probably serve a wider audience than just the highly gifted. (I always start these discsussions at half-past very late. I'll extend this on the morrow.)

Severely Gifted:
    Mike Hess has been good enough to offer his advice in re the term "severely gifted". (Mike is one of the leading pioneers in the field of marketing research in the U. S., and presumably, in the world.) Mike writes,
    "I much prefer 'extremely', or better, 'exceptionally' gifted. These words don't have the emotional baggage contained in the word 'severely' which too often is used in unfortunate connections such as 'severely distressed' or 'severely injured'.
  "Although I understand that the *intent* of using "severely" is to communicate something that may need special handling, my philosophy of communication has evolved to going at least halfway to employ words that are more in the general vicinity of how
folks actually use them- especially when trying to attract the attention of a target audience.
  "Therefore, I'd use 'exceptionally gifted'. It has the benefit of two
recognizable words. Also, it causes one to stop and think:
'gifted' already implies someone exceptional, so to employ 'exceptional' in
conjunction with gifted really suggests something or someone
unique and different. This is exactly what the exceptionally gifted are."

Popular Views of the Profoundly Gifted:
(Editorial Note:It's my understanding that the term "exceptionally gifted" refers to individuals with IQ's in the 3-to-4 s range, and that the term "profoundly gifted" is used to designate those with 4 s+ IQ's. Of course, the "severely gifted" tend to be at or above the 3 s ("exceptionally gifted") level.

    One of the questions that has engaged me lately is that of the popular perception of the super-bright. So I began by cornering hapless bystanders within buttonholing range, and asking them what they thought of the hyperbright. (I was careful not to ask them what they thought of a fruitcake who would ask them weird questions before the men with the butterfly nets caught up with him to take him back to the funny farm.) My first helpless target was Tommie Jean. Tommie's reaction was that she admires intelligence and wishes she were smarter. My next victims were our sister-in-law and our niece. Our sister-in-law, who is a teacher in a top-drawer school system, said, "They're off in a world of their own." Our smart and beautiful niece said, "I'd be intimidated by them. I'd be afraid to open my mouth." When I went out to buy gas, I stopped at Shelby's 4th Avenue emporium and presented my question to its owner. (When Tommie and I had stopped there a few minutes earlier, the owner had faintly reminded me of Marilyn vos Savant.) The owner said that she would have great respect for the super-intelligent, assuming that they weren't weird or arrogant. Then she explained that she was somewhat contaminated by having a son and a daughter with IQ's of 163 and 162, respectively. She herself was the dummy of the family, with an IQ of "only" 157 (I asked her for this; she didn't volunteer it.) (We're talking a very poised and pretty woman here. You would have had to pick up on subtle cues to have intuited the fact, through a casual encounter, that she was so intelligent.)
    On the way home, we stopped at the Cracker Barrel for supper, where I ambushed three guys at the next table what their take on this would be. One of them said, "I'd expect him to wear old clothes, like Sam Walton." Then he said, "I'd expect him to lack common sense, and to be a social disaster."
    (That wasn't quite the answer I was hoping to hear.)
    Today, Tommie and I attended a Christmas reception, and I asked the two women at our table what they thought someone who's super-smart is like. One of them said, "They're weird, and they're socially illiterate." She went on to explain that her husband knows this fellow who's a member of Mensa. He's very, very smart, very sensitive to imagined hurts, and socially empowered with two left feet. The other woman said, "Are they compassionate?" The first woman said, "No, they're not. Well, maybe some of them are."
    I've gotten similar stories from sundry sources of ostensibly-very-bright neighbor children who lacked the sense to come in out of the rain, and/or who were social disasters. I ran into some of them last year at a party, and tried to draw them out. I didn't get very far. I don't believe they thought I was bright enough to be worth a  conversation. I believe that they had IQ's that were in the 120's and 130's. But they certainly fit the profiles of the intellectuals that many describe.
And now for the Punch Line:
    In my experiences with brighter people than the intelligentsia that friends and strangers are describing (and experiencing), I haven't encountered this kind of persona at all! In spite of whatever childhood abuse has been visited upon our ultra-intelligent, I'm finding them to be cordial and socially adept. Neither their appearance nor their demeanor would speak to you of weirdness or social incompetence. They're fun to be around, and entrancing conversationalists. So what's going on here? I don't know, and it will be interesting to find out. One thought might be that the kind of brilliant person who is a misfit may stand out from the crowd in a way that advertises his or her presence, whereas others who are equally bright, or brighter, blend in with the crowd smoothly enough that their intellectual eminence isn't as evident. In other words, these might be maladjusted people who are also happen to be intelligent, rather than people who are maladjusted because they're intelligent. But that's just putting a finger to the wind. Whatever the reasons, it sounds as though this is giving high intelligence a bad rap, tarred with the same brush that's being applied to these unfortunate and socially-unpolished "intellectuals".

12-6-2000 Update: Today, I called one of yesterday's Christmas-reception lunch-mates and asked her to expatiate on yesterday's comments. Here's the first part of our telephone transcript.
X:       "Bob, this is X, returning your call."
Bob:   "Hi, X! I wanted to ask you more about what you said yesterday about the super-smart. You were saying that the really bright people that you've known--or at least, one of them--are weird and socially illiterate. And you were saying that your husband's friend is very sensitive to real or imagined hurts."
X:       "Very much so. I think that intelligent people, and I may... you know, you may just think that I'm not accurate in this, but I think that when you're really intelligent you perceive everything around you. That's how you accumulate intelligence a lot, and so, I've noticed that people won't notice what's going on around them because, well, partly just because they don't care, and partly because they aren't as aware. But I think really, really smart people are much more aware of the world than we are. It might even be painful. I could feel sorry for them. Maybe that's why a lot of them are alcoholics."
Bob:   "How interesting! I'd never thought of that."
X:       "They must have had a lot of trouble getting along with other children. Yes, I see now! That's why they can have social troubles as adults!"
    Our conversation continued, with her mentioning that the hyperbright don't much enjoy talking with people who are much less intelligent.
X:    "It's like talking with someone who's not very bright. You don't have much to talk about. And we don't feel comfortable talking with them. It's intimidating. And we're... you know... a little bit envious. Of course, they say that if you're really, really smart, you can talk with everyone. I think they must be lonely with so few of them around. And I think some of them are arrogant and self-centered." Slight pause. "Bob, you aren't one of them are you? No. You're too humble to be one of them."
         Humility commanded my tongue.
A Little Later: I'm finding this matter of what people think of the ultra-bright to be a pretty intriguing line of questioning. You might like to try it, too. It might be noteworthy that most of the bright examples that people are describing probably have IQ's in the 120's, 130's, and 140's. There are too many of them to expect IQ's much higher than that.

Patrick Wahl's Discussion of the Word "Nonce":
   Patrick has also proffered this helpful background information concerning yesterday's word, "nonce". In Patrick's own words,
   "One word-of-the-day, 'nonce,' has an interesting
origin, which you might want to mention. In middle English, it was 'nones,' shortened from 'for the nones,' a typographic shift from the earlier 'for then ones' ... where 'ones' is our word 'once' and 'nones'" grew into 'nonce.'
    "('Nones' is also noon, and a day of the month.)"
   Patrick has also provided a better link for the discussion of the Putnam Mathematical Competition, and I've updated links to discussions below to reflect this.
   Patrick, thanks for commenting on "nonce". If I said, "You're so smart!", it would probably sound patronizing. But you are.
    And now, it's time to go massage Tommie's feet so she doesn't beat me. (Oh, I know, she's only 5' 1".)
    (You don't believe that she'll really beat me, do you? Well it was worth a try.)

Plans for Moving This Site:
    Patrick Wahl has asked about plans for updating the Ultra-High IQ website. I have updated it, since it only requires a few modifications to the text. I quit updating it because trying to maintain two similar pages on the same website was generating a lot of confusion, causing me to eradicate one of my index pages and its backup, and because I planned to move these pages to the Ultranet server. I did that, but recently, we decided to switch ISP's. After that, I got busied out with the trip to Connecticut, followed by a wanton turkey-and-dressing-drenched Thanksgiving dinner, followed by my new-computer Odyssey, and lots of e-mail, and... and ... and... However, I'll check tomorrow to see if this can all be moved to the Ultranet server. I've planned to retain Tommie's and my website frozen with all the information that's currently on it, and to modify the new website to reflect its Ultranet orientation. One of the questions I've had is that of what to place on the splash page. One possibility is a lot of links. I like the idea of graphics, but for those with 56k Internet connections, it can take a while for images to load. Also, there's the question of what images to present. (I think it's going to be hard to improve on Tommie's images.) What do you think? What would you like to see?

Our Proper Place

I asked of God what life's about,
And why he reaps the dead,
And in His time, He answered me,
And this is what he said,

"Your universe is like a wine:
I've corked it up to age,
To test out all its axioms
And verify its gauge.

"And death is a necessity
To purify the brew,
But as for man, you can't believe
I made it all for you!

"No, you're a brewing accident
While I prepare the day
For one faroff, divine event
Nine billion years away



12/10/2000:

SAT-Practice Word of the Day: irreproachable
Intermediate Word of the Day: clerisy
Intermediate Word of the Day: repine
Difficult Word of the Day: daedal
Difficult Word of the Day: cockalorum
Difficult Word of the Day: plantigrade
Difficult Word of the Day: rémoulade