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Each week The Sun's John McIntyre presents a relatively obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar, another brick to add to the wall of your vocabulary. This week's word: 

PHILISTINE

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The cultured are always a minority, and they often feel themselves to be an embattled one in a brutish and ignorant society. So, typically, they turn to words to solidify their sense of themselves as an elect. One of the words they have favored over the past century and a half is philistine.

(You may pronounce it PHIL-is-tyne, PHIL-is-teen, phil-IS-tin, or phil-IS-teen, as you like. I'm not able to say which one the elect prefer.)  

The original Philistines, the non-Semitic residents of Philistia, were the people the Israelites warred with tiresomely during the twelfth and eleventh centuries B.C. In the nineteenth century, German university students in Jena used Philister in contemptuously referring to the townspeople, with whom they were at odds. 
Matthew Arnold picked up the word from the Germans and thought it would be a fine way to sneer at the crassness of Victorian bourgeois culture, identifying a philistine, he wrote in Essays In Criticism in 1865, as "a strong dogged, unenlightened opponent of the children of light" and philistines in general as "the people who believe most that our greatness and welfare are proved by our being very rich." 
So today the philistine is someone of narrow and conventional tastes, smugly indifferent to cultural and aesthetic values, anti-intellectual. 

Example:  Paula Marantz Cohen, writing in The American Scholar in 2011: "In reducing the syllabus, I tacitly believed that I had 'dumbed it down' to fit the needs of the philistine youth I was teaching."

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