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What is a good word to describe someone who is confident, will correct you if you are mistaken about something and they are correct. They display a degree of self-assurance that could be construed as arrogance or a touch narcissistic, but they are not mean nor do they try to humiliate others if making a correction; it's just their nature to stop the dissemination of false information.

They are happy to acknowledge their strengths and high intelligence. As opposed to a more, socially acceptable, slight self-deprecation, that can be mistaken for humility. (I think humility warrants a discussion elsewhere).

To an uneducated observer they might be regarded as being arrogant or grandiose.

If an extremely skilled and capable individual, doesn't actually flaunt their capabilities, but makes no attempt to hide them and will argue logically and without malice, and happily acknowledges this capacity. If they are not actually self absorbed, but can also give credit where credit is due..

What word would describe someone like this?

The instincts of many, may be to use a pejorative term; however I am looking for a word that doesn't have negative insinuations. It's like a know-it-all, but someone who really does and whenever you argue the toss with them, they are, invariably right.

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You looking for pedant again? :) –  terdon Sep 11 '13 at 17:04
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a really hoopy frood that knows where his towel is –  Sean Cheshire Sep 11 '13 at 17:05
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“Stack Exchange user”? –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 11 '13 at 17:11
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Sounds like the Most Interesting Man in the World. Does he drink Dos Quis? –  bib Sep 11 '13 at 19:40
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Such a person doesn't exist. Even a person "invariably right" is sometimes wrong for arguing a point in certain circumstances. That's why there are so many derogatory terms for related types of the kind you describe. –  Chan-Ho Suh Sep 12 '13 at 3:20

16 Answers 16

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I haven't been able to find a single word that positively describes someone willing to correct others in conversation, but meticulous is a good adjective for someone who cares about details and correctness.

You could combine it with a noun describing what the person is particularly knowledgeable about, e.g. a meticulous grammarian or a meticulous fact-checker.

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I suspect the reason you couldn't find le mot juste is that there isn't one! Even if it was well-meant and accurate, most of us would quickly find such a person tiresome, since everyone always makes errors of grammar and fact. Meticulous (and maybe precise) are about as good as it gets. But be honest, if you knew nothing else about someone except that he was often referred to as meticulous, would you really consider that a plus point? Socially, I mean (it'd be different if you were planning to hire him for some job requiring such attributes! :) –  FumbleFingers Sep 12 '13 at 0:50
    
@FumbleFingers Yeah, I agree the word probably doesn't exist. I'm not sure I like what it implies about our society and culture that we have no concise, positive way to describe someone who helpfully corrects misconceptions and mistakes! :) BTW, if I heard someone described as "meticulous" with no other context, I would probably think of appearance and manners first - meticulously dressed, groomed and polite. But that may just be me. –  Nathan Reed Sep 12 '13 at 2:08
    
If someone only corrected when it was helpful, that would be an entirely different type than the OP described. The type of person s/he described would correct someone, even when everybody else there considers the correction unhelpful (except the corrector of course). I think the issue is that a lot of people think they're being helpful, but they are sometimes not being so, and perhaps over time, even considered often unhelpful. I don't think this says anything bad about our society; more like it says something about those people who consider themselves such paragons of truth. –  Chan-Ho Suh Sep 12 '13 at 3:22
    
I chose this, when I went through them all again.. this was the one that really strikes a cord with me.. :) –  user52080 Oct 22 '13 at 14:56

A guru on everything, a modern oracle, a smart man's man?

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+1 for guru - short and sweet. –  user49727 Sep 12 '13 at 0:24
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+1 for oracle - emphasis on knowledge without attitude. –  James Taylor Sep 12 '13 at 9:54

Erudite is close though it does not have all the connotations you ask for (you are asking for quite a few):

adjective

having or showing great knowledge or learning: Ken could turn any conversation into an erudite discussion.
She was very erudite.


Another possibility is the term Renaissance man:

Renaissance man n.
A man who has broad intellectual interests and is accomplished in areas of both the arts and the sciences.

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An erudite person is not necessarily going to correct others; he just knows more than they do. And the same with a renaissance man. The question has to do with someone who is in the habit of correcting others, not merely knowing better. –  Cyberherbalist Sep 11 '13 at 17:35
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That's the problem! I know what it isn't, but I don't know what it is. I'm interested in the answer, myself, but the only thing that popped into my excuse for a brain was "poindexter", but that's somewhat pejorative, and still doesn't convey a tendency to correct others. Sorry! –  Cyberherbalist Sep 11 '13 at 17:45
    
@Skippy what is "cogsci"? –  Cyberherbalist Sep 11 '13 at 17:46
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@Cyberherbalist yes, I know, I'm not too happy with either of my suggestions, hence the disclaimer in the first sentence. I doubt there is a good term for someone who enjoys correcting others, it does not tend to be very popular.. –  terdon Sep 11 '13 at 17:51
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Nevermind @Skippy, I found it and signed up. My, you have a lot of questions! –  Cyberherbalist Sep 11 '13 at 18:01

Perhaps sage

One venerated for experience, judgment, and wisdom

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@Skippy As Yoda says, Always pass on what you have learned. –  bib Sep 11 '13 at 19:44

What about brainiac? It lists it as being "sometimes derogatory", but I usually hear it as an affectionate term, especially for someone younger than the person speaking.

Noun:

brainiac (plural brainiacs): (slang, sometimes derogatory) a very intelligent and usually studious, erudite person.

Edit:

I can't actually think of a time I've heard it used in a derogatory manner. I'm not really sure how to use it in such a way without it sounding weird.

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A quick google search and wikipedia examination brings us the term polymath, for one who has a great deal of knowledge in a number of different categories that they use in solving a number of different problems. Though this lacks the particular arrogance that exists in the original expression.

Likewise, philomath refers to one who professes a great love for learning, but lacks the explicit confidence in their knowledge that you seem to describe.

These perhaps come close to the word you are looking for, but lack the definite confidence perscribed to the original phrase. If they work for your purposes though, feel free to use them.

It should also be noted that they do not, necessarily, correct others who are wrong.


In doing a bit more research, I've come across two other words that might fit. Neither of these other two individuals necessarily correct others who are wrong though.

Intellectual refers to one who is focused on pursuits of the mind, and denotes a confidence in one's knowledge.

Similarly, scholarly refers to one who studies or one who behaves in the manner of a scholar, and also suggests a great confidence, if not in themselves, then in the knowledge that they pursue.

Depending on whether you want to connote that the individual is confident, or that the knowledge they have is itself being invested with confidence, either one might work.

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Darnit, a polymath, philomath, or a scholar just knows more, doesn't necesarily correct others. –  Cyberherbalist Sep 11 '13 at 17:37
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I did mention it was not perfect for the lack of arrogance. Though you are right, they don't necessarily 'correct' others who are wrong. I'll add that. –  Zibbobz Sep 11 '13 at 17:44
    
I was torn between this and two others –  user52080 Oct 22 '13 at 14:57

We can call that person : a lovable know-it-all,

Lovable because it corrects others without humiliating them and making fun of their mistakes.

Know it all because it has good knowledge of each and every aspect and even after heated arguments, ultimately this lovable know it all proves itself that he/she is right.

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@Skippy : Yeah you are right!!! –  Sweet72 Sep 11 '13 at 19:14

If you want to be really positive I would say genius. You could also use the term Renaissance Man.

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Intellectual: person possessing a highly developed intellect.

The issue is that wish to call them pseudo-intellectuals, but we can't, and that is the exact source of our frustration.

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It's like a know-it-all, but someone who really does and whenever you argue the toss with them, they are, invariably right.

A walking encyclopedia

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What about Polymath ? From Wikipedia :

Is a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas; they are known to draw on complex bodies of knowledge to solve specific problems.

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In context, if it is clear for instance we are not speaking of an object or a place but of someone, I believe we could call it an intellectual reference or a living library.

Not far from sage or guru proposed by others.

"In Africa, when an old man dies, it's a library burning." 1960 Amadou Hampâté Bâ at l'UNESCO.

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I suggest magisterial. But this definition gave me pause when I thought about the pejorative connotation:

having or showing great authority:a magisterial pronouncement

domineering; dictatorial:he dropped his somewhat magisterial style of questioning

On the other hand I've only seen the word used in book reviews, and always in a positive sense.

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The only expressions that I can think of to to "adequately" answer what you asked with accuracy and emotions are profanity of certain kind, and I can give them for both a man or a woman. Let me know if you are interested to hear in here...

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please make comments below the questions or the answers - it's best to leave the answer box for informative answers to avoid clutter :). –  user49727 Sep 16 '13 at 11:17

Omniscient. Which is not 30 characters, but now it is.

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The whole point of the minimum length is that a one-word answer is insufficient. –  MετάEd Sep 12 '13 at 3:22
    
I like this answer.. it was a one word request ty +1 –  user52080 Oct 22 '13 at 14:56

consider crackerjack

outstanding, as in skill or ability; excellent

a person or thing that shows marked ability or excellence (noun).

of marked ability; exceptionally fine (adjective).

This word combines the sense of ability with that of confidence.

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Downvoting, because it does not specifically apply to intellectual or factual pursuits, nor in correcting others who are wrong. –  Zibbobz Sep 11 '13 at 18:05

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