intellectual masturbation

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danielxu85

Senior Member
Mandarin Chinese
I wonder if you could tell me whether the phrase "intellectual masturbation" could be used to the following context. I know that it means some presumed academic breakthrough that is out of touch with reality, but could I use this phrase in a jocking way with a pretty close professor? Would this phrase offend her in any way? If so, what would be a good substitute that can retain the humor and meaning?

I was asked by *** to write a 4-5 pager on expertise, which will be the bedrock of my dissertation. I wonder if you would be interested in giving me some feedback, because I want to make sure that what I have is not just intellectual masturbation, but something that practitioners can identify with.
 
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  • lian.alon22

    Senior Member
    US
    US-English
    I would say that it's an intellectual form of self-pleasure, and not necessarily something that would bring other people that same feeling. The person writing it wants to know that it would be good for more than just himself.
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    Don't do that -- especially for a woman, but even for me. You have no idea how it will be received -- hence, your question -- and it will leave a lasting impression.

    intellectual self-indulgence
    intellectual navel-gazing
    intellectual theorizing

    I'm sure there will be better suggestions.
     

    lian.alon22

    Senior Member
    US
    US-English
    Copyright, my guess is that they are working with a passage, not writing a new statement, but I actually think that intellectual masturbation is a well chosen phrase and gets the point across perfectly. And I am a woman, so I guess it's more to each his own.
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    Copyright, my guess is that they are working with a passage, not writing a new statement, but I actually think that intellectual masturbation is a well chosen phrase and gets the point across perfectly. And I am a woman, so I guess it's more to each his own.
    If the poster knew that it would be fine, he or she would just do it... not ask here. I'm of the opinion that if you don't know how it will be received and are concerned enough to ask, then don't send it -- especially with so many other possibilities available. I appreciate your vote of confidence but none of us can guess her reaction... not even the poster who is "pretty close." Considering the poster's location, we may also be discussing a professor from another culture.
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    Copyright, my guess is that they are working with a passage, not writing a new statement, but I actually think that intellectual masturbation is a well chosen phrase and gets the point across perfectly. And I am a woman, so I guess it's more to each his own.
    As I understand it, danielxu85 is asking us for advice on how to word a request of a professor, and I agree with Copyright's advice. As you say, to each his (or her) own, and it is possible that danielxu85's professor is one of those who would prefer not to receive such a message.

    I think Copyright's suggestions are good.

    However, while I can understand the impulse to making a self-deprecating joke of the request, I would simply say directly what it is that concerns me, which I understand is something like:
    I want to make sure that this is not merely academic and of interest to me alone, but that ...
    You will be able to improve on this, and make it more accurate.
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    However, while I can understand the impulse to making a self-deprecating joke of the request, I would simply say directly what it is that concerns me, which I understand is something like:
    I want to make sure that this is not merely academic and of interest to me alone, but that ...
    You will be able to improve on this, and make it more accurate.
    Yes, even better... just get to the point and voice your concerns.
     

    danielxu85

    Senior Member
    Mandarin Chinese
    @ Don Thank you very much for providing so many fantastic synonyms. I substituted the original with 'intellectual naval-gazing,' and sent my email. My close professor immediately responded by saying that she would love to read what I wrote.
    @Lian Your definition of the phrase is wonderful! I did not realize that it is mainly about self-pleasure.
    @Cagey Your suggestion of plain English is very sound. I just have a soft spot for learning new phrases, but have no clue about how to use them!
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    @ Don Thank you very much for providing so many fantastic synonyms. I substituted the original with 'intellectual naval-gazing,' and sent my email.
    Realize that "naval-gazing" is looking at ships and "navel-gazing" is looking at your bellybutton. I don't think she'll be offended by your affinity for boat-watching. :)

    The expression you want is navel-gazing.
     

    danielxu85

    Senior Member
    Mandarin Chinese
    Haha! Thanks for the pointer. It takes hundreds of times of reinforcement to learn a new thing. I guess that "naval" and "navel" have become my new pet peeves, and I am spelling more like Dan Quayle.
     
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