The Fellow Who Thinks He Knows It All Is Especially Annoying To Those of Us Who Do

Isaac Asimov? Harold Coffin? Unitarian Church Bulletin? Robert Reisner? Joey Adams? Milton Berle? Robert K. Mueller? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Know-it-alls are eager to assert their expertise on all subjects. I love the following comical reaction to grandiose egotism:

Those who believe they know everything are a great nuisance to those of us who do.

The science fiction grandmaster Isaac Asimov has received credit for this line, but I have been unable to find any solid evidence. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: This quip is difficult to trace because it has been expressed in many different ways, and it has evolved over time. Here is a sampling:

  • The fellow who thinks he knows it all is especially annoying to those of us who do.
  • People who think they know everything are terribly irritating to those of us who do.
  • Those who think they know it all upset those of us who do.
  • Those who think they know it all are very annoying to those who do.
  • People who think they know everything always annoy those of us who do.
  • People who think they know it all always bug people who do.
  • People who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do.

The earliest match located by QI appeared as a filler item in “The Saturday Evening Post” in 1961. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

The fellow who thinks he knows it all is especially annoying to those of us who do.
HAROLD COFFIN

Coffin was a humor columnist with the Associated Press (AP) news service in the 1960s and 1970s. He wrote a feature called “Coffin’s Needle” although QI has not found the joke in Coffin’s AP writings. 2

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Fellow Who Thinks He Knows It All Is Especially Annoying To Those of Us Who Do

Notes:

  1. 1961 May 6, The Saturday Evening Post, (Filler item), Quote Page 93, Column 2, Curtis Publishing Company, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (EBSCO MasterFILE Premier)
  2. 1981 September 18, The New York Times, Harold Coffin (Obituary), Quote Page D15, New York. (ProQuest)