When someone is too concerned with literal accuracy or formality, that person can be referred to as pedantic. Pedantic people show off their knowledge by correcting small errors that do not matter in the grand scheme of things. They often use big words in situations where they are not appropriate. They are sticklers for precise details to the point of being tiresome. Discover some pedantic examples from everyday life and literature.
Examples of Pedantic Behavior
If you’ve ever asked someone a simple question only to have them launch into a lengthy exposition filled with irrelevant information, it’s likely you’re facing a pedant (pronounced ped-int). If a simple question results in a five-minute dissertation (or longer!) their pedantic (pronounced ped-ant-ic) behavior might make you want to rush to the nearest exit.
- Paul, a professor, was on a guided tour of the Musée Rodin with his girlfriend. Several times throughout the tour, Paul interrupted the guide to interject his thoughts and opinions, even contradicting the professional guide with a know-it-all attitude. His girlfriend was horrified.
- The calculus class was nicknamed "Calc for Poets" because it attracted mostly English and literature majors. Even though it was supposed to be an introduction to calculus and easy to understand, the professor lectured them as if they were doctoral students fascinated by advanced calculus.
- Sherry asked Nick a simple question and expected a short answer. Nick launched into an academic lecture. Fifteen minutes and a lot of big words later, still no closer to the answer, Sherry excused herself from the conversation, thinking, "If I had known he was going to lecture me, I would have never opened my mouth!"
- Joe asked Hilary what her favorite pizza restaurant in Chicago was, since she had visited Chicago many times. "Well," said Hilary, "It depends on what you like. The traditional way to make pizza involves a lot of time, effort, and determination. Not everyone can make a pizza the way I can. You have to make sure the restaurant sources only the freshest ingredients straight from Naples and..." Joe, having a low tolerance for snobs, smiled and nodded, but tuned her out.
- The weatherman said, "The precipitation will accumulate high in the atmosphere, combining with jet streams moving in from the northeast that have been hovering over the New England states." Erica asked her mom what that meant. Her mom said "He means it might rain tomorrow." Erica replied, "Why didn't he just say so?"
- Sue asked Leslie if she enjoyed visiting the museum, expecting a yes or no answer. Instead, Leslie droned on and on, describing every exhibit she saw in order, providing a detailed history of each item. It took longer than visiting the museum in person!
Pedantic Examples in Literature and Entertainment
There are a number of particularly pedantic characters in books and other forms of entertainment.
- In Love's Labour Lost, Shakespeare goes so far as to label one of his characters as a pendant. Holofernes the Pedant is very precise in his descriptions to the point of redundancy, unnecessarily describing the same thing with multiple words to the point of obnoxiousness. His character is meant to be laughed at.
- Sherlock Holmes, of literary, television and cinema fame, puts his high intellect and pedantic nature to good use in solving crimes. He comes across as stuffy and a know-it-all, but he gets results. His escapades assisting the police have been updated, modernized and told in many different ways.
- In The Great Gatsby, Tom Buchanan comes across as both pedantic and foolish as he misuses the word "submerged" to describe what he fears the fate of the white race will be and the word "pigsty" in the context of hosting parties like the glamorous events Jay Gatsby hosts.
- Temperance Brennan, from Kathy Reichs' book series and the TV show Bones, is a pedantic character. A highly educated forensic anthropologist, she uses the language of her profession even with laypersons. She is extremely precise and detailed in her work and communication style.
- In the sitcom The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon Cooper is an example of a pedantic character. He is very knowledgeable, yet lacks the social skills to know when to avoid launching into a highly technical discussion that others don't care about. He takes pride in being smarter than others and brags excessively about his IQ.
The term pedantic typically carries a negative connotation. Pedants are often (but not always) portrayed as dull or joyless in books and TV shows. Don’t get too upset with pedants, though, as there can be many reasons for their behavior.
Using Pedantic in a Sentence
If you’re writing a story, you might want to introduce a pedant into your tale. Mutual dislike is a great way for other characters to come together. Explore some example sentences that use the word “pedantic” to describe a person or character.
- Knowledge should be shared through humble streams, rather than waves of pedantic jibber-jabber.
- Even though Dr. Denzel was one of the world’s foremost experts on the Holocaust, he passed on his knowledge with fervor and zest, engaging his audiences without being pedantic.
- Her lecture on travel was entirely pedantic. What she droned on about for three hours could’ve been accomplished in less than one.
- Every time the principal called an assembly, he spent the first part talking about how he studied alongside someone who had been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. While he thought he was inspiring his students, they thought he was being pedantic.
- Our new dog trainer was entirely too pedantic. Instead of waxing philosophical about animal psychology, she could’ve just told us how to make our dog listen.
- Bob's engineering pals found him so pedantic, they stopped inviting him out to trivia night.
- I’d hate to be stuck in an elevator with that fashion editor. She’s so pedantic, she’d probably lecture me about my style until my ears rang.
Consider Including Pedantic Characters
Don't shut people with pedantic tendencies out of your life or your writing. Fully rounded stories should include several types of characters; adding a pedantic character can be exactly what a story needs. Review some examples of pedantic diction to make sure you are properly developing this type of character. Then, watch your story unfold as the resident pedant takes the others through the various elements of a plot. It's so important to draw from life when creating literature. Doing so includes incorporating all kinds of characters: the good, the bad, the ugly, and the pedantic!