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[ 2009-11-30 10:34]     字号 [] [] []  
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Lee Hannon

Reader's question: In other words, be humble. If you come across as a know-it-all (even if you really do know it all!), it really pushes people away.

Could you explain “know-it-all”?

My comments: In the Stevie Wonder classic ‘He's Misstra Know-It-All’ he sings about a man “Playin' hard, Talkin' fast, Makin' sure that he won't be the last,” which epitomizes the phrase “know-it-all.”

It is someone, man or woman, who has a large amount of knowledge or someone who professes to have a large amount of knowledge, but who actually knows very little at all.

A know-it-all will be someone who will be the first to answer a query or question, but their response should often be treated with skepticism as the answer may not necessarily be correct. It is more to do with the person being the first to respond rather than being correct or well-informed. The know-it-all will often dismiss the opinions, comments, or suggestions of others.

As the English language evolves, sometimes the phrase is not meant as a criticism and used incorrectly. For instance when doing well at a quiz, friends may respond with the words “you know-it all,” but if the answers are correct, this is not the true meaning or use of the phrase. So care needs to be taken as some people don’t always use it in the correct way and offence may be caused.

A correct use of the phrase could be to someone who always shouts out the answers to a question, but invariably their words turn out to be false. For example: “What is the capital of China?” And they offer a quick, often sounding convincing, response of “Shanghai!” That’s a know-it-all as we all know the true answer is Beijing, but it is said with such confidence and certainty, it is easy believe the person to be telling the truth. A true know-it-all will often prove themselves, over time, to offer incorrect answers.

And if you’re trying to avoid being known as a know-it-all, it is probably best to follow the shrewd words of Rudyard Kipling’s If: “…don't look too good, nor talk too wise.”


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About the author:

Lee Hannon is a journalist at China Daily website with 15-years experience in print and broadcast journalism. Born in England, Lee has traveled extensively around the world as a journalist including four years as a senior editor in Los Angeles. He now lives in Beijing and is happy to move to China and join the China Daily team.