June 19, 2021

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Word + Quiz: affectation

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: a deliberate pretense or exaggerated display

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The word affectation has appeared in 11 articles on NYTimes.com in the past year, including on May 1 in “The ‘Credibility Bookcase’ Is the Quarantine’s Hottest Accessory” by Amanda Hess:

Imagine that you are a member of the expert class — the kind of person invited to pontificate on television news programs. Under normal circumstances, your expertise might be signaled to the public by a gaudy photograph of skyscrapers superimposed behind your head. But now the formalities of the broadcast studio are a distant memory, and the only tools to convey that you truly belong on television are the objects within your own home. There’s only one move: You talk in front of a bookcase.

… The credibility bookcase, with its towering, idiosyncratic array of worn volumes, is itself an affectation. The expert could choose to speak in front of his art prints or his television or his blank white walls, but he chooses to be framed by his books. It is the most insidious of aesthetic trends: one that masquerades as pure intellectual exercise.

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