I was recently told not to get smart with someone. I apologized, and assured her that I was only being smart in comparison.

"Don't get smart with me" is one of the dumbest phrases we use. Well, one of the dumbest phrases people use. I can't say "we" because I don't use it. Making fun of people who say "Don't get smart with me" is the only time I ever say "Don't get smart with me."Of course, the absolute dumbest phrase we use is "believe you me," because that phrase doesn't mean anything at all. That one should be "believe me, you!" unless you're quoting Yoda.

What is "don't get smart with me" supposed to mean? Typically, that's used during an argument in response to the other party making a good point. They should say, "Don't you dare bring intelligence into this in order to combat my circuitous logic!" Or something more their speed, like "I can't unnerstan yer fancy book learnins!"

The phrase is probably intended to mean, "don't be a smartass." But if the speaker means "don't be a smartass," that's what they should say. When that woman I was arguing with said, "don't get smart with me!" I wanted to tell her I wouldn't have to get smart with her if she weren't so dumb with me in the first place. Then she'd have to say, "there you go, being smart again! We're never going to get anywhere if you keep being smart!"

Why are we a culture that prides ourselves on our stupidity? When I changed the name of my column from "Observational Humor" to "Thinking Man," I lost hundreds of subscribers. I'm the same writer, I'm writing the same content, and the mere suggestion that people may have to think to read it scared a few hundred people off. That's almost as stupid as how popular Dr. Phil is.

Yes, trust a fat guy to give you advice on weight loss. After you buy his book, you should pick up the new one from Donald Trump on how to have a successful marriage, or Joe Jackson's how-to on positive methods of childrearing.

Not everyone is smart, and I don't expect everyone to be. There is no one good at everything. But if you are living on your own and smart enough to eat each day, you're smart enough to try to get smarter. Read every now and then – you might actually like it.

There are millions of people smarter than I am. Many of them write to me each week to correct my grammar. Though that shows they're not smart enough to pick their battles. Kind of like me not letting the phrase "don't get smart with me" go.

I know I'm not the smartest guy in the world, so I work at getting smarter. I read when I can, I am always learning from others, and I even do things like crossword puzzles just to keep my reasoning skills fresh. I'm amazed at how seldom my mind is tested after I graduated college. Though every time I have to give back the extra change a clerk gave me, I guess I'm practicing math.

I don't know the perfect solution to this problem. And while I joke about it, we shouldn't actually try to kill stupid people. Though they do have a habit of doing it for us – there's a LOT of dumb on dumb crime.

The only solution I could come up with is to encourage people, individually, to be proud of the knowledge and facilities they do have. And to get more. You know what the best way to learn is? Just pay attention. There's knowledge all around you – all you have to do to get some of it is listen. Which might be tough, with all the dumbasses prattling on in the background. After you turn off Dr. Phil, it will get easier.

But who am I talking to? If you're reading this, you weren't scared by the "Thinking Man" title and you've probably never said, "don't get smart with me." Except of course to make fun of the phrase.

If you're already reading for leisure, you're one of the good ones. So I can metaphorically pat you on the back and be proud that you understand the term "metaphorically." I can also count on you making fun of the next person who says, "don't get smart with me."

Just try not to let it be a cop.

Steve Hofstetter is the author of the Student Body Shots books, which are available at SteveHofstetter.com and bookstores everywhere. He can be e-mailed at steve@stevehofstetter.com.