Had a chat with the wife last night, while eating a takeaway and not watching episode two of “Generation Kill” (decrepit DVD player making a bid for the knacker’s yard).
I confidently (well, arrogantly) pronounced that arrogant was less annoying than smug. We batted that one around a bit, and the missus managed to articulate what I could only hint at.
Arrogance makes its claims openly, and is evidence-based and willing to fight its corner. Smug is slippery, sliding away when griped or gripped. Arrogance puts its cards on the table and says “that’s a winning hand”. Smug pretends to be above playing games at all and comes out with patronising stuff like “when you’re a bit older maybe you’ll understand.”
So arrogant is at least theoretically testable (though the carapace of self-regard is usually pretty thick). Smug is hermetic and eternal.
P.S. The illustration is not a dig at my vegan friends, all of whom were vegan long before it was “fashionable.”
P.P.S. David Rovics captures this all quite well with his “I’m a better anarchist than you” song
P.P.P.S. Now that I’ve created the post and it’s too late to change the title, I realise I should have had the title “Arrogant is marginally less stupid than smug”. Doesn’t roll off the tongue, and isn’t a provocation- those are my ex post facto rationalisations, and I’m sticking to ‘em