If You’re So Smart Why Can’t You Understand Context?

I’ve had two recent encounters with people who were so eager to stun me with their knowledge of things that they didn’t care whether it was relevant to the discussion at hand.

  1. In a writing club, somebody was talking about a fan fiction she was writing involving a character’s semi-sentient sword.  At a loss for picturing the role of a semi-sentient sword in a story I asked: “Semi sentient sword? What’s that?”  In response, a smarty pants nearby began to lecture me with “‘Sentient?’ It’s derived from the Latin word ‘sentiens,’ meaning feeling …” but was then cut off by the girl, who compared it to being a dog  in that “it can act on its own but it still essentially an object that’s acted upon.” At least she was smart enough to explain it in the context of the conversation at hand, rather than launching into an etymological dissertation.  Unfortunately, I never understood what the sword did in the story. 
  2. I recently watched the first “terrorists attack the White House” of the year, Olympus Has Fallen, with a friend.  A major plot point lies in a fictional nuclear fail safe named Cerberus. Of course, the first few times it’s mentioned in the movie all of the characters react with shock while the audience is left completely in the dark.  I asked (to the screen) “so what the hell is ‘Cerberus?'” To this, my friend felt the need to inform me that Cerberus is the three headed dog guardian of the underworld; he apparently hadn’t noticed that, despite the presence of “Olympus” in the title, the movie was not a fantasy epic based on Greek mythology.  The more appropriate response would have been “hell if I know” or, if I’d missed the explanation in the movie, he could have informed me what it was.

Is this a thing with people these days?  Do people need to have context of a question specified to them in excruciating detail because they can’t figure out such things by themselves or am I at fault for failing to provide all of the pertinent information?

Maybe I’m just making  a mountain out of a molehill.  If you read that idiom, and immediately wondered “what could he be referring to that he’s making a mountain out of a molehill of?” then I guess I’ll have my answer.


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