Where Does "Highbrow" Come From?

A Twitter reviewer with the attractive name of Philosophart panned Thank You for Arguing, calling it "highbrow tripe."

Wow, highbrow! What an honor! Of course Jay tweeted Mr. Philosophart my sincere thanks. But then a friend on Facebook asked, "Where does the word 'highbrow' come from?" Good question!

The word is a metonymy, a trope that takes a characteristic from one thing and transfers it onto another. "Highbrow" means big-brained. Back in the day, the pseudoscience of phrenology associated characteristics with the shape of someone's head. A prominent forehead with a high brow meant gigantic brain. 

Of course, people can't stand big-brained types who flex their big brows. So "highbrow" also connotes icky things like intellectualism. 

For the record: Jay's hat size is XXL. Just saying. Go on, haters. Hate.