a distinction

buck-mulligan

Deer have antlers, not horns. Is this important to know as general knowledge? Or is it just a burdensome detail pertinent to specialists alone? (I’m using a small conversation about this in a story. Can random knowledge be burdensome? Useless?)

Your thoughts?

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5 Comments on “a distinction”


  1. No knowledge is useless. But I’m a copyeditor and a poet, so I might not be the right person to ask.


  2. I don’t judge people who don’t know something I deem “common knowledge.” (We’ve all had a couple times in life when something “common” was not known to us; sometimes, even as adults.) But if someone repeatedly shows they are unaware of the world around them on many levels, it’s a sign of disinterest or one who doesn’t seek answers. Awareness and the knowledge that can come from it is important to me…not even so much what a person knows, but that they seek things on their own.

    But sure, I think it can be burdensome. I’ve known people who held so much random knowledge and tricked themselves into thinking it mattered. They did nothing with their lives; in fact, their only moments were in correcting others or regaling people with how much useless knowledge they knew. At that point, it doesn’t really matter.

    And then there’s the shared bit of who decides what random knowledge is pertinent. I have friends who can’t believe their kids don’t know some band or pop culture thing they knew. But why should they? Many friends’ kids know better known bands all the way back to their grandparents, but of what importance is it to a kid to fill their head with pop culture from the past?

    I used to know someone deemed “dumb.” It wasn’t that they were dumb; in fact, when it came to figuring things out before them that didn’t rely on stored knowledge, few people could do it as quickly. But they were raised by an abusive family who picked on them. They were told they were dumb their whole lives, so…they never sought out common knowledge or were particularly aware of their surroundings. But they were friendly and helpful and quite intelligent.

    People at work knocked them, though, because it really was like they were raised in a bubble. (And, in a way, they were.) It was only in the moment that they shined…and then, as long as the moment involved a tangible thing before them they could solve by curiosity and know stored knowledge in their head. They truly were unaware of most of their surroundings, and quite a timid person, but they saved many people who couldn’t figure out what came natural to them.

    As a writer, random knowledge sticks around in my head. It IS weird to have conversations with people who don’t hold some shared common — even random — knowledge. It matters as much as I suppose any social construct matters to a person or group, but I’m not sure it’s necessarily the best measure on a person.


  3. I think it’s a rather important distinction.

  4. Diane Says:

    My feeling is, most of the burdens we bear tend to be self imposed, and this is much the same: if we feel pain at others’ ignorance, which is a choice, sure it’s a burden, but the burden isn’t borne by the person we regard as needlessly ignorant. As a recovering grammar prescriptivist, this used to come up a lot for me (“It’s SUPPOSED TO, not SUPPOSE TO!”) and I’ve found letting go of it immensely liberating.

  5. Dean Gugler Says:

    I wish more people had general knowledge about nature, or for that matter any knowledge at all about nature. I have heard of one New York person who has never been out of the city nor had their parents nor grandparents. I wonder if they would even recognize a deer if they saw one in the “wild”.


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