Grandiosity: Greatness of scope or intent; feigned or affective grandeur or pomposity; excessive use of verbal ornamentation.
In the mental-health disciplines, grandiosity is a disorder: “an unrealistic sense of superiority, a sustained view of oneself as better than others that causes the narcissist to view others with disdain or as inferior. It also refers to a sense of uniqueness, the belief that few others have anything in common with oneself and that one can only be understood by a few or very special people.” (Source: the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition, 2000.)
In last Thursday’s Republican presidential primary debate, held in Charleston, South Carolina, former US Senator Rick Santorum sniped at fellow candidate Newt Gingrich:
“Grandiosity has never been a problem with Newt Gingrich,” Santorum said of his opponent’s shameless self-promotion. “A month ago, he was saying, ‘Oh, I’m inevitable.’ It was, ‘I’m destined to do it.’”
Gingrich’s smiling response seemed to suggest that he approved this message and perhaps thought “grandiosity” was a favorable assessment.
Gingrich went on to win the primary on Saturday. Santorum finished third.
When grandiosity and grandiose entered English dictionaries, around 1840, the words already had both positive and negative connotations. As time went on, the disparaging meanings prevailed. George Eliot wrote in Daniel Deronda (1876) of a character’s “grandiose air” that “was making Mab feel herself a ridiculous toy to match the cottage piano.” In 1892, Augustine Birrell compared Gibbon and Milton: “as one is our grandest author, so the other is our most grandiose.” And in a 2011 column in the Wall Street Journal, Al Lewis said of Ayn Rand, a darling of the antigovernment crowd:
She crafted philosophical arguments and wrote bizarre works of fiction to prove their premises. Then, in the delusional grandiosity that only chemicals can inspire, she declared herself, “the most creative thinker alive.”
Newt Gingrich has also declared himself to be a creative thinker. Some of his publicly shared ideas include establishing a moon colony to extract minerals, firing federal judges with whom he disagrees, and changing the labor laws to allow children to work (as school janitors, for example).
Predictably, there's a parody Twitter account.