Mismatched Vocabularies

Sometimes I’ll be speaking to someone and use an obscure word or concept they’re unfamiliar with. There’s a few different reactions, and, well, I understand mine and do not understand the ones that are not mine. I spent five minutes thinking about it, trying to model why people are crazy and the world is mad, and came up with these more-common reactions and my hypotheses:

  1. Google the unknown reference, get the definition or wikipedia summary, then respond (“understanding is necessary to communication and now I’ve learned something new”).

  2. Ignore it and carry on the conversation as best possible anyway (“doesn’t matter what it meant, I’m just here for the social contact”).

  3. Get angry at the ostentatious erudition (“you have just made an implied status grab and I’m slapping you down”).

If it’s not obvious, #1 is my knee-jerk reaction to unknown references; #2 seems to be the way most people deal with it; and I have a lot of difficulty dealing with #3 even remotely charitabl—STOP.


I don’t get to use a verbal justification of #1 and compare it to an evopsych historical-cause of #3. That’s a type error, or something, and also hypocrisy: by making the comparison, I’m setting myself above those poor adaptation-executing sheep, i.e. I’m doing exactly what (I think) they’re getting angry at me about. Despite my uncharitable framing, their implied complaint is absolutely correct!

This bothers me, and I suddenly don’t trust my own perspective, so I’m farming it out: what’s really going on here? What do #2 and #3 feel like from the inside, and what’s the symmetric explanation of #1?