Answer to an e-mailWeirdly enough, "authority" is one of those words on my list, motivated from years of watching the morning segment of C-SPAN. Every third caller is an "authority", on Social Security, the Palestinian Issue, inherited IQ, the pine resin industry, what have you.
To me, an "authority" is one who has read under the direction of a tenured expert (another over-used word) and received some degree or certification stating that they have mastered their studies. Sitting on the couch watching every episode of the many varieties of "Law and Order" for five years will not make you an authority on the legal system. This is only done by attending one of the top five law schools in the nation, and then only after graduating with honors. Pouring poison on bugs in Texas, however successfully, does not make anyone an expert on the Constitution. I would use the word "maven", but even that word is misused.
I have a whole rant I will post later on the use of the word "authority" and "expert". It is related to my whole caffeine-stoked routine on the topic of C-SPAN morning callers, who include such characters as Rayon Ray, License Branch Lucile, and Ali Ali Akbar, More on my blog as I go along.
Thank you for your patience
The Acerbic Dane