When someone is too concerned with literal accuracy or formality, that person can be referred to as pedantic. One way pedantic people show off their knowledge is by correcting small errors that do not matter in the grand scheme of things. Pedantic people are sticklers for details, very concerned about precise minutiae.
Typically, they're portrayed as dull or joyless and, if you use the term today, it will typically carry a negative connotation. Pedantic people, or pedants, also like to grandstand. That is, they like to be the center of a crowd, spouting their knowledge, so that others will feel impressed by them. Let's take a look at several pedantic examples.
If you've ever asked someone a simple question only to have them launch into a lengthy dissertation 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 someone has seemingly added their over-inflated "two cents" to a casual conversation, check for the nearest exit. Here are some examples of pedantic (pronounced ped-ant-ic) behavior:
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, causing his girlfriend to roll her eyes.
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's lectures were chock full of over-inflated vocabulary and no one ever knew what he was talking about.
Mary asked Nick a simple question and expected a short answer. Fifteen minutes later, still no closer to the answer, Mary 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.
"I hate talking with Rita!" exclaimed Erin. "I never know what she is talking about. I feel like I need to have a dictionary in one hand and a thesaurus in the other just to figure out what on Earth she is saying!"
The weatherman said "The precipitation will accumulate high in the atmosphere, combining with jet streams moving in from the northeastern that has 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?"
Allen was writing a book. His girlfriend arranged for him to meet up with her old literature professor, much to Allen's dismay. She encouraged him to tell her old professor what his book was about. When he said, "It's about a nostalgia shop," the professor launched into an eight-minute rant about how we should stop fantasizing about the past and start living in the present. Allen never even got to share the details of his book.
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. Let's have some fun with sentences that use the word "pedantic" to describe a 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 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 all 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.
His 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.
Don't get too upset with pedants. According to The Guardian, there are many reasons for their behavior. And, don't forget, any "villain" you come across in real life might just serve as the antagonist in your next story!
For a fully rounded story, you'll want to include a couple different types of characters. Best of all, you can watch your story unfold as your resident pedant takes the others through the various elements of a plot. Let's always draw from life as we write and that includes the good, the bad, and the ugly.