Miss Know-It-All

I’m almost certain that the first word I ever spoke was “Actually.”

Actually, you can’t catch a cold from cold weather.

Actually, there is no solid evidence linking coffee consumption to stunted growth.

Actually, it’s only a myth that sitting close to the television will damage your eyesight.

According to my parents, I was actually a frustrating kid to raise.


"According to my research, school buses can't transform into rocket ships." (Shows what you know, Dorothy Ann)

“According to my research, school buses can’t transform into rocket ships.” (Shows what you know, Dorothy Ann)

I was a total Miss Know-It-All. Sometimes, I still am. I have learned to bite my tongue when other people make grammar mistakes or express opinions based on faulty science or understanding. Mostly. But sometimes, the urge to correct wells up like a volcano, until I can’t help but blurt out that dreaded word, “Actually…”

It’s a fault that even annoys me. I mean, it’s obvious that I don’t know everything. I’m not a computer, though I live most of my life glued to one (like one of those scary teens in the book Feed, by M.T. Anderson). However, make one comment about the right/wrong or black/white way to think or do something, and my inner Siri is unleashed, spitting out alternate theories and empirical scientific evidence at 10Gb/s.

Little Miss Brainy

At times, being Miss Know-It-All comes in handy. Those Hermione Granger tendencies can really help me to do well in school or at work, especially when actual analytical thinking is required. It can also be useful having an entire dictionary/thesaurus built in to my brain when writing stories, playing Scrabble, or answering questions.

As my 11yo said the other day, “Why Google anything when we can just ask Mom?”

But it can also be a hindrance, especially in social situations. Who wants to engage in conversation with someone who refutes nearly everything, even if only to play Devil’s Advocate? According to my research, pretty much no one. Except perhaps, for other Know-It-Alls, who adore a good intellectual debate.

Lisa Simpson Know-it-All

Not long ago, someone made a comment that has swirled around in my brain ever since. “So in order to have a conversation with you, a person would pretty much have to have a PhD.” Oops. It would appear that my Smartypants ways can be pretty off-putting to other people. So I am learning – learning when to speak and when to listen. Learning when to counter someone’s faulty opinions and when to keep my thoughts to myself. Learning how to keep the volcano from erupting, no matter how much hot magma flows beneath.

After all, it may appear as though the Miss Know-It-Alls of the world really do know it all. But there is one thing we enjoy doing way more than showing off how smart we are — learning. Yes, actually.

annoying know it all

Actually, we know this, too.

11 responses to “Miss Know-It-All

  1. Actually, I know something you don’t know: your life will be richer, happier, and more stimulating if you DO hang out with more PhDs, literally and figuratively. Blending into Normal is shooting way too low for some people.

    Trust me on this one–you’re not here to calm others down, you’re here to have a fucking awesome ride. Strap in. Remember, your kid is watching. Do you want them to get to the end of their life and say, “Well, I didn’t accomplish my dreams but at least I didn’t make anyone uncomfortable”–?

    • You may be right. It so happens that I follow several PhDs online, and often find myself wishing I could meet them and hang out for a day. It is not only the brilliance of their minds that I enjoy, but their openness to various points of view and out-of-the box perspectives. I want to bask in that and learn from them, and to experience what it is like to have the freedom to be myself, even if I just happen to be a lover of intellectual stimulation.

      • Hell, yeah. I gave my television away in 2006 and rarely watch movies anymore. Instead, I have a serious YouTube lecture addiction, not to mention TED Talks. This, on top of copious reading.

        Turns out, a PhD is nice but it’s rather limited by the whole university politic (don’t get me started). Most of the time, the people who would very much like to run with their ideas are hamstrung by funding, the university’s image, and the fact that science moves forward at the pace of egos and fear (because those who bled for decades to get their ideas published are frequently loathe to have their premises toppled by new discoveries. Yes, it really IS that stupidly childish out there.)

        The ones who are on the leading edge of their field, who are literally surfing the new wave of discovery are often “lunatic fringe” whose work is laughed at until it is plagiarized. Neil deGrasse Tyson calls it the Three Phases of Scientific Truth: “Every great scientific truth goes through three phases. First, people deny it. Second, they say it conflicts with the Bible. Third, they say they’ve known it all along.” I’ve even caught him doing it, himself, snickering at concepts that are about to break open certain fields. I love you, Neil, but bite me.

        My point is, aim for the highly-educated fringe. The border towns between science and intuition are where all the cool shit goes down.

      • I love the sound of those border towns. I would love to move there. 🙂 Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s three phases sound about right, though strangely enough, those last two tend to coincide for far too many years.

        I’ve only seen one Ted Talk and would like to see more, but I have developed kind of a YouTube aversion. I should get over it and try again soon. I’ve heard that Ted Talks can be really worth my time (which is often stretched too thin).

  2. I’ve met several “actually” people & they drive me crazy! But your post did give insight into their mindset, which helped explain to me why they are the way they are.

    Bottom line, I’m okay with “actually” people – as long as they say it nicely.

    Thanks for posting!

  3. Story of my life. I’ve often wondered whether people think I’m staring at them blankly because I don’t know what they’re talking about, rather than appreciating the sheer effort I am putting in, mentally repeating to myself “just leave it be, you do NOT need to correct them/pull them up on their pseudo-science/give them another random fact..”. It usually ends with me blinking and saying “well, actually….” Sigh. Although, funnily enough, it’s always you they’ll come running to with questions they don’t want to research themselves, right? When it’s all “What antihistamines can I give my dog?” or “Is this a hoax?” suddenly, the Miss Know it alls are highly sought after 😉

    • Haha, so true! It takes so much work sometimes, not blurting it out when I have some knowledge or insight. It can be so offensive to some people to be corrected or disagreed with, even when they may be wrong or misguided. We are all riddled with faults, aren’t we?

      • Yes, we are 🙂 Now I try reeeeeally hard to limit myself to a few subjects that I just can not possibly allow people to spread misinformation on. Actually…..I’ve noticed most people don’t bring those subjects up in front of me anymore…hmmm. Haha. 🙂

      • Same. 🙂 It’s such a struggle. I like when other people share their knowledge or correct me when I’m misinformed about something. It’s hard to remember that not everyone else thinks that way.

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