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Is there a word for someone who is more than a layman but not an expert?
January 13, 2014 11:23 AM   Subscribe

What words or short phrases describe someone who is a fair bit more knowledgeable about some field than the general public, but is well short of being an expert or full professional? Ideally I'm looking for words that fit the idea that such people are often better communicators, teachers and helpers to laypeople in common situations than many true experts would be.
posted by philipy to Writing & Language (41 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
amateur.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 11:23 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]


enthusiast
posted by Marauding Ennui at 11:24 AM on January 13 [11 favorites]


Experienced? Journeyman? Seasoned?
posted by Schielisque at 11:24 AM on January 13 [3 favorites]


Journeyman
familiar with
well versed in
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 11:28 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]


maven
posted by ubiquity at 11:29 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]


aficionado
scholar/student
buff (what a funny word in isolation, but works sometimes in context, e.g. "film buff")
posted by payoto at 11:29 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]


hobbyist
posted by katyggls at 11:31 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]


devotee?
posted by billiebee at 11:33 AM on January 13


paralegal
posted by janey47 at 11:35 AM on January 13


autodidact
posted by travelwithcats at 11:35 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]


-nut (huh, that one works a lot like buff does: health nut, computer nut)
devotee
connoisseur
fan

I think different topics/industries/areas work better with different words.
posted by mochapickle at 11:36 AM on January 13


And again, depending on the topic: student or scholar (of)
posted by mochapickle at 11:38 AM on January 13 [3 favorites]


Craftsman
Alpha geek
yeoman-like
boffin
posted by islander at 11:38 AM on January 13


Savant
posted by Rob Rockets at 11:42 AM on January 13


Journeyman or, if you don't need it to be a noun, "proficient."
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:01 PM on January 13


Maven? oops. as seen above...
posted by Lynsey at 12:08 PM on January 13


The term I see in CVs to describe this trait is "a working knowledge of x".
posted by like_neon at 12:09 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


Practitioner.
posted by Houstonian at 12:18 PM on January 13


Super-user.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 12:25 PM on January 13


Enthusiastic amateur.
posted by embrangled at 12:35 PM on January 13


In the digital camera market, "prosumer" (fusion of professional and consumer).
posted by snorkmaiden at 12:38 PM on January 13 [3 favorites]


Antonio Gramsci's concept of the "organic intellectual" might fit--they're folks from any class or educational background who articulate important points of view that not everyone can express well.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 12:39 PM on January 13


dilettante
posted by BurntHombre at 12:42 PM on January 13


It's an ugly neologism, but I immediately thought of prosumer as well.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:52 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


Popularizer?
posted by MonkeyToes at 12:54 PM on January 13


Dangerous.
posted by destructive cactus at 1:24 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


"Early adopter". Typically the first kid on the block to get and become fanatical about X
also "Evangelist". From guy Kawasaki's early years with Apple.
posted by Gungho at 1:33 PM on January 13


Journeyman
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:46 PM on January 13


expositor?
posted by treese at 2:08 PM on January 13


"Armchair ________"
posted by ripley_ at 2:21 PM on January 13


Adept?
posted by humboldt32 at 2:31 PM on January 13


The term "dilettante" used to convey this very well, but in modern usage is often considered sort of a pejorative.
posted by randomkeystrike at 3:03 PM on January 13


student
posted by bruce at 3:24 PM on January 13


guru?
posted by jabes at 4:56 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


I say "conversant in [topic]" and "extra-educated layperson" or "over-educated layperson." A bit more casually, "[topic]-geek" works surprisingly well.

/being this kind of person was a significant component of my prior job
posted by desuetude at 5:22 PM on January 13


enthusiast

I'd also have to say that I'd consider a person who has studied and studied and worked with and learned everything he could find about a given subject an expert, whether he has a degree in it or not.

Would you eat a wild mushroom recommended by: a person who taught a class in mycology or a person who'd been eating that wild mushroom all his life?

There are a whole bunch of examples that come to mind quickly, but I'll let it go with mushrooms. My Polish friend, Wieslaw Wisniewski, a great astronomer, who's gone on to his final reward (flying around on asteroids, probably) was an expert and then some on wild mushrooms - oh. Lordy, was he ever. No mycology degree, though.
posted by aryma at 7:41 PM on January 13


dabbler
posted by cincinnatus c at 1:37 AM on January 14


I came to say sophmore, but really this is exactly what a "journeyman" is.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 5:58 AM on January 14


Thanks everyone. It's good to have a range of options to weigh up, and I'm pondering the nuances that go with a lot of the suggestions.

I'd esp like to double-check the shades of meaning and associations that "maven" has for people. According to my dictionary it means "expert", but I suspect that doesn't capture how people really understand it.

Would I be right in thinking that "maven"...

- Brings to mind someone who is knowledgeable and enthusiastic?
- Does not necessarily imply being a professional or formally trained?
- Suggests a good communicator? Someone who not only knows, but enjoys actively sharing their knowledge, and does so frequently?

Also, is it a word that people are generally familiar with? I'd hesitate to use some of the other words that were suggested because they seem dated or not in common use nowadays. Not sure if that is true of "maven" also.

And does it have any negative connotations?
posted by philipy at 10:19 AM on January 16


Does not necessarilyi imply being a professional or formally trained?

I think I've only really heard it in the context of "fashion maven" and I always thought it meant a sort of fan and trendsetter at the same time. But apparantly it means expert in the field. So it's maybe not the type of person you're describing. It's a great word, though, and it would describe the "full professionals".
posted by billiebee at 11:26 AM on January 16


philipy: - Brings to mind someone who is knowledgeable and enthusiastic?
- Does not necessarily imply being a professional or formally trained?
- Suggests a good communicator? Someone who not only knows, but enjoys actively sharing their knowledge, and does so frequently?


If this is what you are going for, I'd say "guru" is a better fit. I don't necessarily think of a maven as a teacher.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:12 PM on January 16


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