Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Insufferable snobbery

A little while ago someone called me an “insufferable know-it-all”. I couldn’t dispute that… it’s true. In fact I quite like the sound of it.

But then yesterday someone else called me an “intellectual snob”. Now I’m starting to think that I’m getting a bit of a bad rap, so I’d like to try and set the record straight.

I’m well aware that I have an annoying habit of correcting people all the time. I often get complaints, and I try to keep a handle on it when it’s not appropriate, but sometimes it just gets away from me.

Not everyone takes offense though. And I suspect that to a large extent, people who do take offense misunderstand my motivation for doing it.

In my life I strive for accuracy. When I make an error, I do my best to learn from it so that I don’t repeat it. Problem is I’m not in a position to be able to detect every error I make. So when other people spot me making a mistake, I hope they’ll tell me about it. I appreciate it when they do that, and because I appreciate it, I automatically return the favour.

I suspect a lot of people think that when I point out an error I’m trying to show off how clever I am, that I know more than they do. I can understand why they might think that, but it’s simply not the case. I’m just trying to help.

Perhaps the issue here lies in the way I do it. I try to be as congenial and discreet about it as possible, but perhaps that’s the wrong approach.

Here we have another situation where I can’t detect my own error… I would greatly appreciate some assistance in this regard.


  1. This is a sticky situation, especially because you mean well, but are misunderstood.

    As a teacher, I am in the position of correcting people all of the time. In fact, my students expect it. I found that they are most receptive of my comments once I demonstrate that I first tried to understand what it is that they were saying and then, as a side comment, mention the technical issues of message.

    I don't know it all, but this does really seem to work.

  2. BTW, there are plenty of corrections to be made in my last comment! That's what I get for not proofreading.

  3. Ditto what missjackie says. Part of teaching evolves pointing out errors and enabling students to, as you put it, strive for accuracy.

    But I want to say, too, that people have called me a snob for simply bringing up ideas I’ve been thinking about or expressing my opinion on some event or TV show. Sometimes I wonder if such people just have low self-esteem and feel that I am threatening to them in some way.

    I certainly don’t mean to be, but maybe they read me as putting down on their ideas or preferences. When I’m called a snob I just try to laugh it off and say, “Well, it’s true that I know what I like.”

    Sometimes it still hurts my feelings, though.

  4. Only the dimmest domfkoppen out there would take offense when Your Accuracy deigns fit to correct the errata of their ways. Peasants nowadays...time was you could have any knave flogged for splitting an infinitive but now that everybody is on this whole 'human rights' vibe, public scourging for grammatical infractions is , like, so frowned upon.