Originally Posted by odoreater
So, let's say, someone who has to work doing physical labor for 12 hours per day to provide for his family with a very meager salary that gets them just enough to eat and pay for necessities can never be "classy" in your mind, right? On the other hand, someone who is very educated, has a good job, makes a lot of money, reads for pleasure, but cheats on his wife and doesn't care a lick about his kids is "classy."
I think we have a very different definition of what "classy" means. Which just points out the ambiguity in this thread.
I don't quite understand this antagonism and mild anger bubbling underneath. Classy is a word. It's roots are in the word "Class." So yes, there is some element of class to being classy. That said, if you read what I am saying carefully, I was stating clearly that I was making generalizations and using imperfect heuristics to get at an imperfect definition.
The latter type of person is not classy [again, my personal definition]. I don't know where you get the presumption that I believe this to the very core of my heart, but you are wrong. Since people are not mindreaders we have to use what we can observe to come to conclusions about people. Sure, it's very possible that without knowing a person's home life, I may think a "polished" (another loaded word) person to be classy, but that judgment always comes with the caveat that if he acts like a cad, I can rescind and change my characterization of the person. I'm pretty sure think cheating on wife and neglect of kids is not nice.
That said, classy does imply some amount of polish to a person. I can't see why a person who does physical labor can't be classy [in fact, the first example you used describe my parents in our tougher days to a T, and they are definitely "classy"]. But it doesn't mean that a person can be classy while being ill-mannered (even if out of ignorance rather than boorishness), and to me personally, without showing some curiosity about the world they live in. There are no class boundaries that prevent a person from reading good books or newspapers (yes, it's harder, sometimes really hard if your situation in life made it impossible for you to learn to read in the first place) or to put it in most basic form, observing human life as it comes. As Emily Post once said, "Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use."
The reason I placed a premium on reading good books is that it says volumes (zing!) about a person's natural curiosity of their world (and other worlds). Books give insight into how people think, shows you what was proper historically, and offer other tidbits of knowledge that help make a polished person. Anti-intellectualism is a strong cultural phenomenon in America, and in its extreme, the anti-intellectualism reaches as far as people not caring to observe the people around them, and if people don't care about others... I doubt they'll be a classy person. That said, I know how imperfect this rubric is; I just think it's as good a shortcut as any.
In case you were curious, I do not find you classy, based on your internet persona. Perhaps you shouldn't take giant leaps to conclusions. I do not think myself classy either, if it comforts you any.