So…in the last post, I mentioned that I’m sort of pedantic. And apparently, I’m not alone! In that last post, I wrote about the part of the definition of “pedantic” that I agreed with and could identify with. And I had promised to write about the part I disagreed with in my next post.
That time has come. (Grin.)
The definition of the word “pedantic” begs a question…
…and maybe a litany of dissent…
…because it sounds like being pedantic is implied (or made out) to be a Bad Thing.
Is our/my desire for accuracy or precision necessarily bad, or could the world maybe use a little bit more of it? After all, is there a pejorative label for people who aren’t accurate enough? People who round numbers too soon or are completely OK with just getting by? People who approximate too much?
I’m not aware of such a term; the lacks of labeling, othering, and distinction almost imply that it’s OK to be inaccurate, or even lazy (in reference to those who could do better, but consciously decide not to).
It almost appears that not putting forth one’s best effort is the default, the norm, and “perfectly” acceptable, because there is no pathological term for it. It’s not called attention to, and those who do it are not labeled.
Is the pedantism yet one more “weird” “trait” or “symptom” that, like all the rest, needs to be pathologized, on top of every one of our other quirks that could be used to an advantage if only the world would see it that way? Is there anything inherently wrong with using advanced or uncommon words?
Well, that depends on who you ask. And of course, “it’s all relative.” The degree to which a trait is pathologized, or deemed to be “wrong”, or framed in a pejorative manner, depends on The Great Bell Curve: what “Everyone Else” is doing.
If “Everyone Else” held precision and accuracy in equally high esteem, then if I do it, too, then I’m “on par”. No problem, no mention, no second thought–and maybe, not even a first thought. I would be linguistically camouflaged among the masses, and there would be no “othering”.
However, if “Everyone Else” was more casual, less formal, more loose, and less precise, then suddenly, I don’t fall into the center of The Great Bell Curve anymore. I’m now an outlier. And, expectedly, I stick out.
This “outs” the “Different Is Bad” sentiment that so many don’t realize they subconsciously harbor. Sure, that’s not how the saying goes; the saying is “Different Is Good”. But when the rubber meets the road, the tire pops. The charade falls apart.
I have proof that the majority still secretly believe that “Different Is Bad”, even if they’re not ready to admit it to themselves. My proof: The DSM.
The Diagnostic and Statistics Manual gleefully and gloatingly gathers every possible divergence from the mythical “norm” and catalogs it in a (not-so-)neat little classification system, slaps a label on every grouping of divergences, and then paints it with a dark and scary brush, a brush meant to strip the individual of their legitimacy, validity, and credibility.
So when I insist upon precision and correctness, what happens? Am I somehow looked up to as an example to emulate, by other people?
Nope. Instead, I’m labeled a ‘pedant’.
Here’s the other kicker: the assumption(s) made about the reason behind the pedantism.
The second half of the definition from the previous post read:
“…or one who makes an ostentatious and arrogant show of learning.”
What we have here is a completely upside down assumption. I’ve mentioned before, in both posts and comments, that I’m pretty tough to rattle. I have a fairly short list of words, phrases, and actions that actually offend me. My skin is pretty tough, and my sense of humor pretty broad and forgiving. Hell, I’m pretty forgiving; it may piss some people off to know that I like Family Guy. I know they make racial slurs, and I know they engage in hints of misogyny. I don’t like racism or misogyny. But I perceive a broader context of the humor, and even as I’m shaking my head, mouth gaping open, eyes wide, and exclaiming, “oh my god. They did not just say that!”, I’m still chuckling at the broader humor involved. Maybe there’s nothing funny about it, and that in thinking there is, I’m just imagining things. That’s possible. But I also know that the writers of the show lean a little to the libertarian-left, and it’s possible that in using these slurs and jabs, they’re actually doing it tongue-in-cheek, and actually criticizing, through humor, those who actually do say racist/sexist things.
OK, enough about Family Guy and my tough skin; I just wanted to let everyone know where I’m coming from, so that people understand what I mean in the rare instance that I’m actually offended. It’s not a term I throw around lightly or look for excuses to say.
And the “ostentatious and arrogant show of learning” actually offends me.
I do get offended (and quite so) when a critical assumption is made, especially when it’s wrong.
And this one is indeed wrong.
Here again, we have yet another example of how an Aspergian/autistic trait gets slanted and tangled up through the biased neurotypical authoritative lens.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I can say that when I insist upon accuracy, precision, and competence, I’m simply trying to do my best, and I’m striving for as clear a communication exchange as possible.
I can honestly and solidly say that I am not doing it to show off. I’m not trying to show anyone up or put anyone down. I’m not strutting around with my chest puffed out and my peacock feathers spread to say “look at me! See how smart I am! You shall all now down to me and do your piddly best to emulate me! Because it’s all about me!”
Just–no. (Shakes head.) That’s not the case at all. (And although I’m speaking for myself, I’m pretty sure I’m not alone.)
This is another one of those cases in which They failed to ask us; they just wrote down what they saw. They made assumptions. They passed judgments.
On what planet is that called for? Just because someone might go on a little long in order to establish understanding (and god(dess) knows what happens when we don’t), that somehow it’s an ego/posturing thing?
From my perspective (and it’s been said before, by not only myself but also others on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum), it’s the neurotypical-dominated world that feels compelled to turn everything into a contest. It’s the more shallow and pompous of the neurotypical population that struts their stuff, trying to one-up each other (and maybe even themselves). It’s the more superficial and egotistical of the neurotypical people who would try to embellish their intellectual superiority.
I know that the majority of neurotypical don’t do that, but I know that everyone who does is neurotypical. I sure as hell don’t see that in the Asperger’s/autism spectrum community (unless there’s something else going on that would make them more inclined to do that. And that’s pretty rare).
I also don’t see nearly as many of us making those types of assumptions, especially about people and neurotypes we don’t even know. Even my writings are all based on my perspective, my observations of others, the popular culture-influenced media, and my hobby-research into psychology. I’ve had plenty of opportunity to observe a lot of neurotypical people. Up until a little over a year ago, I even thought I was one! But now that I know that I’m not, I have stopped speaking as though I am, and I no longer claim to be a representative of (my flavor of) neurotypicality. (Nor do I claim to speak for anyone in the autism spectrum community except myself.)
I have a theory, though, about why Asperger’s/autism spectrum traits that are actually advantageous/beneficial are continually pathologized at every turn.
But I will save that for another time.
Wouldn’t want to be too pedantic, after all. 😉
(PS: the black and white kitty in the picture really is our kitty. Her name is Vanessa, aged 4.5, a rescue from the San Antonio Missions just south of downtown San Antonio, Texas. She thinks she’s a dog. Seriously, she wags her tail while she’s purring. She’s hilarious.)
(Image Credit: me)