opposite of up-to-earth

I recently had a friend ask what it means to be down-to-earth. This is a surprisingly hard term to pin down, but I looked on the internet and found some synonyms:

realistic; sensible; not pretentious or affected; straightforward; simple in style

But still it is harder to explain than it is to notice. You know when David Brooks came on The Colbert Report in a suit and tennis shoes? Yeah, well it doesn’t get more down to earth than that. It’s also that professor that remembers what it is like to be an undergraduate, or the parent who hasn’t yet forgotten childhood. It’s that friend that you can talk to whenever you want. You tell them the sad parts of your life story and they don’t have to lie when they say they know what it feels like. You can see it most at the local homeless shelter.

It is easy to say what it isn’t. It’s not the people on the tabloids in the grocery store. It’s not the smugness of the radical political commentators, ever sure of themselves. Nor is it the academically elite who look down on the uneducated. It usually isn’t found in wealthy people.

But perhaps the greatest antithesis of down-to-earth: the style section in the New York Times.

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