The know-it-all is a person who, as could be ascertained, knows everything. Of course, since omniscience is not a very likely occurrence for a mortal, a know-it-all is often someone who believes that they know everything, or at least knows more than those around them. Sometimes they are even right about this, but even a know-it-all that is well informed is usually insufferably arrogant.

The know-it-all can run the gamut of ages and situations, from the child on the playground correcting classmates on the difference between apatosaurus and brontosaurus, to the professor writing snide comments about colleagues misunderstanding of continental philosophy. Beneath the various differences, however, I classify Know-it-alls into two opposing groups.

  • The exceptionalist know-it-all considers their knowledge to place them above and beyond the common masses. (And they may actually say that. They might even say "sheeple".) They have what they consider to be special knowledge, experience or accomplishments that others do not, and give them an insight into the world that is not easily explained. (But they will charitably try). The exceptionalist know-it-all's knowledge often tends towards the esoteric, foreign and exotic. It is often gained through personal experiences that they consider proof of their inner strength or insight.
  • The conformist know-it-all is almost the exact opposite of the exceptionalist. Their knowledge is something that "everyone knows", and usually is something that the conformist assumes should be common knowledge. They usually view their knowledge as something that is external to them, a code of received wisdom that is Platonic in its universal applicability. Unlike the exceptionalist, who feels that they hold a special position, the conformist (on the surface) feels that they are just a mouthpiece for what should be obvious.

From these descriptions of two types of know-it-alls, different things can be deduced. While the exceptionalist know-it-all usually comes on as more obnoxious and annoying, they are actually somewhat easier to deal with. The exceptionalist can at least theoretically be disproved. If the exceptionalist's key to knowing more is that they have climbed Aconcagua, you can find someone who has climbed Everest. The conformist, however, because they depend on an external code that is just assumed to exist, can not be disproved.

When I was first making up these categories, I actually called these two classes the "male know-it-all" and "female know-it-all". The reasons for this are that (in my experience), men are more likely to base their knowledge and conversations on their macho adventures, while women are more likely to tsk each other over such things as wearing white after labor day. But the exceptionalist and the conformist are not bound by gender roles, with other factors such as culture, family background and personality coming into play. And of course, just like with any type of classification, there are not always clear lines between the two types of know-it-alls. And also, people may occasionally indulge in the behavior of a know-it-all, but may not have such behavior as a defining personality characteristic.

Oh? And me. Type 1, for sure.

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