Chess exists as the purest form of intellectual competition this side of a university debate. Head to any major urban park on a sunny afternoon and find the chess hustlers on the benches, decimating all challengers willing to slap down a five-dollar bill.
He was neither the first nor last intellectual jailed for heretical writings, and in some respects he proved lucky: Governments and other powers have a longstanding habit of killing thinkers whose ideas threaten the status quo.
Quoting William Shakespeare is a little like breathing: every living person does it. "He's dead as a doornail," your roommate will say as she flips through the newspaper obits, never realizing she's just quoted part of a couplet from Henry VI.
Spell check is vital for many people who, for one reason or another, have trouble with certain words. It wants to help you out: the problems only start when you use it as an excuse to avoid the necessary reread.
Those nonfiction books that purport to explain life, the universe, and everything will occasionally rocket to the top of the bestseller lists and stick there for months, like a wine stain that won't scrub from the carpet.
Like sports teams, many of the major museums live and die by their seasonal lineup. A series of good shows attracts paying visitors, and generates the buzz that draws headlines, sponsorships, and donors.
Not that you need to unleash your inner Conan the Barbarian to make a point about literature. But given how intellectuals inevitably harbor well-tended lists of likes and dislikes, not confessing a deep hatred of, say, John Milton's poetry will compel other learned types to view you with suspicion.
A party attended by intellectuals sometimes descends into the verbal equivalent of a thermonuclear war, one in which the combatants seem determined to transform their rivals into stammering, apologetic poseurs before the hors d'oeuvres are even served.