Scene: My public speaking class. I’ve just slogged through a terrible rhetoric activity with my students.
Me: So what references does the author make to make his argument relatable to his audience?
Student 1: He talks about yoga and Tai Chi. A lot of people do yoga and Tai Chi.
Student 2: If by a lot of people you mean bobos. Bobos do yoga and Tai Chi.
Me: Hipsters too! Don’t forget about the hipsters.
(My comment is met with quizzical looks.)
Student 2: What is this hipsters?
Me: Oh, um, well, hipsters are kind of like bobos. More into indie music maybe. But you know, hybrid cars. American Apparel. Skinny jeans. Chuck Taylors. Organic foods. Wayfarers. French New Wave films. The occasional apolitical keffiyeh. That kind of thing. I guess it’s an American term.
Student 1: But bobos are kind of old in France. Are hipsters old?
Me: No, I guess hipsters are mostly in their twenties and early thirties in the US.
Student 2: So people say, “I am a hipster?”
Me: Actually no, I think that one of the important things about being a hipster is that nobody actually thinks they are one. It’s kind of a derogatory term.
(Students begin quizzing me about hipster culture. They appear to be much more interested in this than classical rhetoric. Suddenly I’m trying to explain Williamsburg, Coachella, Urban Outfitters, and why people might enjoy drinking blue collar beer.)
Student 2: What about the Arcade Fire? Is that a hipster band?
Me: Totally. Look, there’s some websites you can visit if you are really curious. (I write the addresses for Stuff White People Like, Hipster Runoff, and Cobrasnake on the board. I figure this is sort of like an American culture lesson.) Anyway, are there any questions left about the rhetorical concepts I went over earlier?
Student 1: Or about hipsters?
Me: You only get one more question about hipsters.
Student 1: Are you a hipster?
(Before I can respond, Student 2 interrupts)
Student 2: That’s a trick question! She said that no real hipster will say that they are a hipster.
Me: I guess you’ll never know if I’m a hipster or not.
(Students look very disappointed.)
Me: Honestly, no, I don’t think I would qualify as a hipster. I’m sort of the wrong kind of dorky to be a hipster.
Student 1: The wrong kind of dorky?
Me: I mean, I don’t really know about what’s cool or happening. Like right there, nobody who says “cool or happening” is really that cool or happening.
Student 2: You think you are a dork?
Me: Yeah, but not the cool kind that might make people think I’m a hipster.
Student 2: I don’t think you are a dork. I think you are neato! (I taught them “neato.” Yes, I occasionally teach French youth archaic slang and encourage them to use it in their daily lives. Sue me).
Me: Well, thank you. You get an A.
Student 2: A what?