This type of thing happens a lot online.

People will say something like "strawberries aren't actually berries technically" or "tomatoes are actually fruit" when people are taking about eating cooking.

This is true under the botanical definition but clearly everyone else is speaking in a culinary context.

Or people will say "Evolution is only a theory" to discredit it because in common use theory means you're less sure but the scientific definition means a well established explanation.

It's also used by motivational speakers. I can't think of a specific example but normally it's something like "the root of X is Y and Z so when you're saying X you're really saying Y and Z"

Is there a term for this?

  • 1
    Isn't it just nerdiness or are you looking for a technical term? Jan 29 at 19:20
  • Does this answer your question? Word to describe "when someone describes something in too much detail" Or term meaning careful and thorough ... almost excessively so (Pedantic / nitpicking / punctilious / exacting ...) Jan 29 at 22:43
  • The first thing that came to mind is category error, but I'm really not sure. If anyone wants to post this as an answer, be my guest.
    – wjandrea
    Jan 30 at 6:03
  • To use a word in one definition, and then in another, or to use a word that has two meanings but be ambiguous about which you mean is "equivocation" OED: The use of words or expressions that are susceptible of a double signification, with a view to mislead; 1856 The Bishop..stooped to an equivocation too transparent to deceive any one. J. A. Froude, History of England (1858) vol. I. iii. 250
    – Greybeard
    Jan 31 at 0:54

2 Answers 2


Pedantic is a term that can describe one who is overly focused on small technical details. Such a person is eager to correct small, insignificant errors by others. They may use specialized terms to refer to things in a highly precise manner, even though simpler terms would likely be just as well understood.

  • It's a particular kind of pedantry, but I don't know a word for it specifically. What it shares with other kinds of pedantry is that it is almost always a status game, a way of raising oneself up and diminishing others.
    – Colin Fine
    Jan 29 at 22:58

Pettifogging (Merriam-Webster, Oxford Learners) would fit the bill - "One given to quibbling over trifles", "Paying too much attention to unimportant details".

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