There were times when this word used to drive me crazy.
I’d be reading a book, and come across a line like, “In that instant, Janet knew that she was going to die.” But then Janet didn’t die! And I would feel frustrated enough to growl at the page, because how could the writer claim that Janet knew something if she was wrong? As a too-philosophical-by-half character of mine named Logan once questioned, “Can one know a lie?” I certainly didn’t see how one could!
And keep in mind, you’re talking to (or, uh, reading… from?…) a self-motivated perfectionist. I want everything I do to be right – no, beyond right. Obviously, I’ve figured out by now that perfection is unattainable; one can (and, I maintain, should) strive for it, but there’s something to be said for learning to be content with “good enough”. I’m still learning that. I’ll probably always hate to be wrong, I’ll garner no pleasure from anyone else’s being wrong, and knowing that this author of Janet’s was perpetuating wrongness rubbed me completely the wrong way and without fail incurred my silent wrath. (Thought I wouldn’t work in another of the seven deadly sins? Think again! Last one for a while, though, probably.)
“…But that’s the funny thing about
We all of us know both more and less than we think we do.
Sometimes you can know
and not know it.
Other times, you can know that you know,
and still be wrong.”
Quoting Logan again. And the guy, as he usually is, was right. I’d been thinking of the word “know” purely in the “to possess knowledge, understanding, or information” sense. As far as I was concerned, if it wasn’t true, you couldn’t know it. But according to my dictionary, Janet’s “knowing” that she was going to die and my “knowing” that she was wrong was the same kind of perfectly valid “know” – “to regard as true beyond doubt”.
The fact is, “know” has quite a few definitions. It can mean “to have a practical understanding of, as through experience; be skilled in” (e.g., I know how to write). It can mean “to perceive as familiar; recognize” (Hey, I know that song!…). It can mean “to be able to distinguish; recognize as distinct” (Arrgh, these landlubbers don’t know the crow’s nest from Davy Jones’ locker!). And there’s more where that came from.
So, the bad news: Perfectionist Me was wrong. The good news: Well, now we all know a little more, don’t we, Janet?