To me as a non-native to the English language, it reminds funny, geeky, nerdy hero, like Tony Stark (Iron Man) excluding his riches and Iron Man suit.

But what are the nuances of "intellectual bad ass" to a native speaker of English?

  • 1
    This is Primarily Opinion-based. FWIW, the primary "nuance" of intellectual bad ass to me is smartass t-shirts. Apr 24, 2014 at 11:54
  • 2
    @FumbleFingers is right that this is opinion-based so here is my opinion...a "bad ass", to me, is someone who is uber-confident to the point of being cocky and someone not to be messed with - though this is usually associated with bullies and others whose physical prowess is intimidating to others. So using those characteristics, I'd say that an intellectual bad ass is someone who's intellectual prowess gives that person an extremely high degree of self-confidence that they can whip anyone in a battle of wits. Apr 24, 2014 at 12:49

1 Answer 1


"intellectual bad ass" juxtaposes "intellectual" or high-brow language with "bad ass" which is slang, or a low-brow language. Thus it achieves a kind of paradoxical effect. This works for Iron Man as a guy who both has "book smarts" and "street smarts" (which is what many of the geeks want).

David Foster Wallace uses this style a lot.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.