Making the World More Understandable

Category Archives: Words

My thoughts and comments on the building blocks of the English language.

Are They Stupid, or Just Ignorant?

Are They Stupid, or Just Ignorant?

Here’s a definition subtlety for you: What’s the difference between ignorance and stupidity?

Here’s what has to say:


  1. lacking in knowledge or training; unlearned:
    an ignorant man.
  2. lacking knowledge or information as to a particular subject or fact:
    ignorant of quantum physics.
  3. uninformed; unaware.
  4. due to or showing lack of knowledge or training:
    an ignorant statement.


  1. lacking ordinary quickness and keenness of mind; dull.
  2. characterized by or proceeding from mental dullness; foolish; senseless:
    a stupid question.
  3. tediously dull, especially due to lack of meaning or sense; inane; pointless:
    a stupid party.
  4. annoying or irritating; troublesome:
    Turn off that stupid radio.

So, if a person is ignorant, they are missing information or experience. That’s easily fixed.

If someone is stupid, on the other hand, something more is going on. Nowhere in the definition of stupid do you see reference to information, knowledge, or even understanding. Instead we see words like dull, senseless, and inane (lacking sense, significance, or ideas; silly). Stupidity seems to be a character flaw.

My Take

A stupid person doesn’t care. This person doesn’t care about facts, just about what they think. When presented with arguments or data counter to what s/he thinks, they ignore it. Or, better yet, claim that the person in dissent is actually the stupid one.

To make matters worse, stupidity is the type of character flaw that people don’t see in themselves. And that is what makes stupid so hard to fix. A person will not fix a problem they don’t think they have.

On the other hand, an ignorant person knows that they are missing something. If they care about that lack, they can do something about it.

Before you get offended, not all ignorance needs fixing. Consider this: I am ignorant about climbing Mt. Everest. I have little knowledge and no experience with the topic. And I’m just fine with that. I have no desire to climb Mt. Everest so I have no need to learn about it. Conversely, when I get a new client, I’m generally ignorant about their specialty – I certainly know less about it then they do. I care about that ignorance, so I ask my clients lots of questions, do research, and fix the ignorance.

Society Today

It is rather distressing how many people seem to confuse ignorance and stupidity.

It is even more distressing how many stupid people are in positions of power. People who won’t even acknowledge other points of view, let alone give the credence.

That said, this is not about politics. (I just like to get my digs in where I can.)

My Advice

When dealing with someone who you want to label as stupid, ask if they are just missing some information. If that’s the case, provide the information. The ignorant person will appreciate it, the stupid one will ignore or deny it. From there, you can approach the person accordingly.

How to Approach Ignorance

  • Offer information, experience, or directions to them.
  • Encourage the person to find what they need.
  • Applaud them for overcoming the lack of information.

How to Approach Stupidity

Don’t. The stupid person doesn’t deserve the resources you may consume on them.

What is Journalism?

What is Journalism?

As you may have heard, I’m writing a book. One of the writers that agreed to contribute said that his specialty was journalism – the problem is that he didn’t answer my questions with information I would think of as being from a journalist. So, I thought maybe I wasn’t defining the word properly. So,… Continue Reading

Provocative Words

Provocative Words

Welcome to my “Ode to the Thesaurus.” One of my favorite Facebook pages is The Writer’s Circle. I always seem to glom onto their lists of Other Words For <fill in the blank>. I’ve several of them clipped into my Blog Ideas notebook in Evernote. One I’ve been looking at a lot lately is for… Continue Reading

Words That Don’t Work: Nonplus

Words That Don’t Work: Nonplus

I believe that a person with a basic understanding of the language ought to be able to understand content published for the general population – even if they encounter a word they haven’t seen before. Obviously, text books, scientific articles, philosophical debates, and the such are likely to contain words that will send the reader… Continue Reading

Properly Pronounce!

Properly Pronounce!

In a blog that I don’t think I’ll publish, I discussed the importance of proper pronunciation. That rant focused on how commonly people drop Rs from words such as “library” and “February.” And while I do find that tendency annoying, the blog itself was just a little too pissy – even for me. That said,… Continue Reading

Going Too Far with Gender Neutrality

When being specific could be wrong, when referring to a person of unknown gender, it is better to be general than specific. And, job positions ought to be neutral. Male or female, someone is a server or a flight attendant. However, I believe people are taking gender neutrality too far. The idea for this blog… Continue Reading