(Using big words gives me a cheap thrill).
Has anyone else noticed that the word ‘expert’ is changing its meaning, becoming more generous? It seems like the bar for becoming an ‘expert’ is lower than it once was (good examples can be found on the 6 o’clock news). Of course it’s hard to measure this other than empirically, but it’s fun to play the mental exercise - are you an expert in anything? I’m going to assert arbitrarily that unless you know more about a subject than 95% of the people who are in some way experienced in the field in question (by the most narrow definition feasible), then you’re not an expert. I think this approximates to the definition of ‘expert’ most people used to have, but not any more (I’d postulate the figure is now drifting in the 60% region). My strict definition of ‘expert’ means I’m not one in economics, film, libertarianism, SOA, or a variety of other fields I’m interested in. I don’t find this depressing, though - I think it just makes the word more useful. A vague definition is the enemy of precise language (something Strunk and White advocated). Unfortunately, most dictionaries are vague on expert, only hinting towards a ‘high degree of skill’. This is why I felt it might be better to put numbers on it (even if the domain can still be vague).
I’d be interested to hear your empirical observations.