Masters of Being Pedantic

Posted on June 22, 2013

I like being pedantic and I a naturally gravitate towards those who excel in what I believe is one of best human traits available to annoy others and stir them from their slumber.

Sadly, the most pedantic person I have ever met (Tony Lydeard) passed away earlier this year and his expertise in this fine art is something I still miss badly.

However, I am glad to say that amongst my peers there are several people challenging against me for Tony’s throne and it may be several years before I am King. Craig Killick (42) and Richard Chivers (54) are right up there with best, but I am afraid to inform them that they are sitting in mid-table obscurity in comparison to Ian Dilley, the pedantic stalwart who practices this fine art within the premises of the Fox at North Waltham and beyond.

You may wonder why I have included the ages of Craig and Richard but it is relevant, as I believe that being pedantic can only be mastered with age (Tony was 65). For example, you never hear of someone being called a “pedantic young bastard” whilst pedantic old bastards are as common as a pigeon on a bird table.

When I write a Facebook status or indeed a blog post, the first person in the queue to the front of my mind is Richard; I can almost see the bastard sat at his desk in feverish anticipation of the spelling or grammar mistakes I am about to make. In turn, Richard knows that I study his comments like a hawk, salivating when an error is found. Craig is just a few steps behind and though he rarely comments, I know he is privately storing them in his memory bank.

Ian, until yesterday, never really featured in my mind as I didn’t realise that the pedantic old bastard read my blog posts. However, in this case, his pedantic nature worked in my favour after I had been the victim of a young apprentice, Dave Longland. Dave is only in his thirties and has to be admired for taking up this art at such a tender age, but to learn, you have to be aware that people like Ian will lay in wait to fiercely defend his title.

If you look at my previous blog post you will see the term ‘Toe the Line.’ To prove that he is an emerging force Dave pounced on this opportunity before anyone else by gleefully posting a Facebook status saying ‘Toe the line’? :-). It was the gleefully winking face and the end of his post that rubbed it in and suggested that term I was actually looking for was ‘Tow the line.’

Enter Ian Dilley.

I saw Ian at The Fox last night and it was great to see he was at his pedantic best. Ian can command attention with great skill and when he wagged his finger at me and said: “dear boy it is indeed ‘toe the line’ and not ‘tow the line’ as your friend suggested” I stood up and took notice.

When I got home I almost broke down my front door to get on my computer so I could discover the true spelling and indeed the meaning of this idiom.

It soon came apparent that Ian was victorious and that David needed to go back to serving his apprenticeship.


The origin of the term goes back to the wooden decked ships of the Royal Navy during the late 17th or early 18th century. Barefooted seamen had to stand at attention for inspection and had to line up on deck along the seams of the wooden planks, hence to “toe the line”. The first mention of this use in literature stems from a story about navy life widely published in 1831 and written by Captain Basil Hall RN. Hall served in the Royal Navy from 1802.

Take that Dave you pedantic young bastard!

Ian, I know that Tony will be up there looking down on you with great pride.


1 Reply to "Masters of Being Pedantic"

  • Craig Killick
    June 22, 2013 (12:03 pm)

    Typo in the first line… Couldn’t resist. “and I a naturally “

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