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Is there a polite word that can be used to designate someone who didn't really understand what he or she was doing? Or, in general, someone who is intentionally ignorant of how things work. A "lamer" doesn't fit for being impolite, and seemingly harming some people's ears too much.

Edit: Another good definition is

It distinguishes between people who are ignorant by chance from those who are ignorant by choice.

And it makes me think that there is no polite substitution just because the meaning itself being impolite and abusive. Right?

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Do you want terms for someone "ignorant by change" or "ignorant by choice"? Pick one. :) –  MrHen Apr 5 '11 at 17:44
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@MrHen a latter one, thanks :) –  Col. Shrapnel Apr 5 '11 at 17:46
    
I can't give a specific word offhand, but I don't doubt there are several. I personally know pretty much how the internals of a car work, but I know plenty of people who drive perfectly well with no such knowledge. Some of them actively resist learning what goes on under the bonnet, and it doesn't automatically follow that such an attitude should always be refered to disparagingly. –  FumbleFingers Apr 5 '11 at 17:46
    
I personally have been tripped up more than once in a lifetime working with computers. I might have once known how an application functioned internally, and used the app in such a way as to capitalise on that knowledge. If the app gets a complete rewrite, I may be in a worse position than if I'd just stuck to the 'dumb user' approach. –  FumbleFingers Apr 5 '11 at 17:53
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@MrHen: I make these comments because I'm taking the question at face value. It asks for a non-derogatory term for someone who doesn't understand what they do. I assume they actually do it perfectly well - they're just not interested in how it works in detail. I'm reminding others that such an attitude can reasonably be understood, even valued. Most Answers seem to completely miss the point of the question. –  FumbleFingers Apr 6 '11 at 4:48

7 Answers 7

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Novice? Unaware of [whatever]? Edit: A self-appointed expert?

The problem is that implying that someone intentionally ignorant of something is inherently discourteous. All of the polite variants you'll find will be implying that the ignorance is unintentional.

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Well you nailed it right before I realized it myself. So, there is no answer at all. Just to refine your definition: A novice who tries to teach others on the matter. –  Col. Shrapnel Apr 5 '11 at 17:43
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@Col. Shrapnel: A self-appointed expert, perhaps? –  user1579 Apr 5 '11 at 17:55
    
That's closest one (at least to my not-so-good feel for English) –  Col. Shrapnel Apr 5 '11 at 18:15
    
Well I feel to accept your answer for the suggestion in the comment. Thanks! –  Col. Shrapnel Apr 6 '11 at 6:59

Shamelessly copied and pasted from NOAD:

Someone who knows nothing about growing things might be called ignorant by a farmer who never went to high school but has spent his life in the fields. Although all of these adjectives refer to a lack of knowledge, ignorant refers to a lack of knowledge in general (: a foolish, ignorant person) or to a lack of knowledge of some particular subject (: ignorant of the fine points of financial management).

A professor of art history might refer to someone who doesn't know how to look at a painting as uneducated or untutored, both of which refer to a lack of formal education in schools (: she was very bright but basically uneducated, and completely untutored in the fine arts).

Someone who cannot read or write is illiterate, a term that may also denote a failure to display civility or cultivated behavior (: the professor routinely referred to his students as illiterate louts).

Someone who is unlettered lacks a knowledge of fine literature (: a scientist who was highly trained but unlettered); it also implies being able to read and write, but with no skill in either of these areas.

Unlearned is similar to ignorant in that it refers to a lack of learning in general or in a specific subject (: an unlearned man who managed to become a millionaire), but it does not carry the same negative connotations.

Uninformed refers to a lack of definite information or data. For example, one can be highly intelligent and well educated but still uninformed about the latest developments in earthquake prediction.

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If you want to be nice, you can say the person is a neophyte. Less polite would be philistine, which MW defines as "one uninformed in a special area of knowledge." If this is a technology-related field, luddite might work (though it's not very nice, either). A more neutral way of saying "intentionally ignorant" might be

exhibits a deliberate lack of sophistication about _.

EDIT: Understanding the question better now, I offer another option to describe someone who is arrogantly and intentionally ignorant yet insists on trying to instruct others.

insists on [spreading or infecting others with] his deliberate lack of sophistication about _.

This assumes you're just looking for a polite way to describe the problem to third parties. You wouldn't say this to the person's face -- at least not if you expect to get along with him afterward. :)

Sorry so many words. I don't think there's a way to say this that is both concise and diplomatic.

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Frankly, I don't want to be nice. More likely I forced to it %) However, lamer is not equal to neophyte. It's more likely an "arrogant neophyte". –  Col. Shrapnel Apr 5 '11 at 18:14
    
@Col. Shrapnel: Well, "lamer" was unfamiliar to me before today (but I like it). Until I read your comments to Rhodri's answer, I didn't get the "arrogant" part. I've added another suggestion, though I'm still not sure I'm exactly hitting the right note. –  Kelly Hess Apr 5 '11 at 18:29

A polite way to say that a person doesn't know something:

[Person] is not familiar with [something].

For example,

Mark is not familiar with Java programming.

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It more fits for a newbie than a lamer. –  Col. Shrapnel Apr 5 '11 at 17:30

A few words that can mean "ignorant by choice" (with mixed amounts of tactfulness):

  • unenthusiastic
  • unmotivated
  • lackadaisical
  • bored
  • resistant
  • rebellious
  • apathetic
  • uninterested
  • ennui
  • listless
  • passionless
  • indifference
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How about a "specialist"?

It's a long shot, but I myself try to avoid learning anything of certain areas, like music and politics. It's not an inherently negative practice (Although perhaps I shouldn't speak being an open practitioner ^.^). At least, it's not if you've read, or admire, your Sherlock Holmes.

If you don't remember, this was one of the features Watson found most remarkable about Mr. Holmes in A Study in Scarlet, in the second chapter, if you're interested. Despite his astonishing knowledge in several eclectic and esoteric areas, he remained ignorant of the primacy of the heliocentric theory in astronomy, and would have liked to remain so.

As I said, "specialist" is a long shot, but it's not insulting...I admit, that's mainly because it emphasises a hypothetical counterpoint for whatever intentional ignorance. Still, it seems to me that, sometimes, that is exactly what being polite is, ignoring the negative and hyping the positive.

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my favorite is from "Shawshank Redemption" in which Andy accuses the warden of being obtuse.

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