When “Stupid” and “Idiot” Are Fine Words Indeed

STUPID and idiot aren’t two words you would hear in an interview or see in a news article often, but when you do, they tend to send shudders that could either trigger shock and outrage on the one hand, or pleasure and approval on the other.

Last week, I came across these two words uttered by two very different people—one, a German fashion icon, and the other, a retired four-star general.

From Karl Lagerfeld, the man behind Chanel, Fendi, and his eponymous label, I’d hear him blurt out stupid as if it were the most natural adjective in his lexicon, the way Anthony Boudain spews the four-letter word—never gratuitously, in my mind, but always to good effect.

Here’s an excerpt from a November 2014 interview with Monocle’s Editor-in-Chief, Tyler Brûlé, who asked the fashion giant what his thoughts were on marketing and the media:

Lagerfeld: These stupid things like the iPad and the iPhone already have changed the world too. Internet, all those things. The world is so different.

Brûlé: It’s interesting you refer to them in a slightly dismissive way. And in a way, I applaud this as well.

If you saw that wry smile Mr. Brûlé flashed in response to that comment, you couldn’t help feeling an unmistakable sense of envy. Mr. Lagerfeld could get away with uttering that word, not many others can. Political correctness, after all, has no home in someone so outspoken and bold as him.

Then, there are the hacked emails of Colin Powell, which revealed his frustration at Hillary Clinton and his disdain of Donald Trump. His choice word for the Republican presidential nominee: idiot.

Responding to a reporter who approached him for comment, Mr. Powell wrote last month that Mr. Trump is “his own best enemy” and added: “I will speak out when I feel it appropriate and not after every idiot thing he says.”

Elsewhere, Mr. Powell explained why he chose to remain on the sidelines while Mr. Trump charged ahead to the Republican presidential nomination: because “to go on and call him an idiot just emboldens him.”

Described by The New York Times as “one of the high priests of the Washington establishment,” Mr. Powell has chosen to remain silent amid this year’s loud and trenchant presidential campaign. That reputation as a distant, discreet diplomat, however, seems to be rattled, thanks to The Donald, whose gall and vitriol have a way of inspiring the same even in people with the coolest and calmest temperament.

Idiot? Yes. Stupid too? I’d leave someone else to say it.

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