So I've been noticing over time that when I hear the word "expert" my skeptic filters instantly engage.
Not so much when watching TV, but more in person.
The word itself tells me nearly nothing about the person being described. It tells me a lot about the person speaking. It usually means that the speaker doesn't understand the subject that they are saying the other person is an "expert" at. What they are in a sense saying is that "This person I am calling an expert knows way more about subject X than I do."
Also, the more a person knows about a subject the less they would say the word expert (if ever). I am an IT person with 18 years of experience. I am not an expert at all. I am a generalist, but someone describing me might use other vocabulary.
One way to learn more about the "expert" knows to have the speaker tell you more. "Could you describe what this person helped you do?" Or just let them talk. There is information in the details, but you have to go through a lot of superfluous words first.
Back when I was programming and we were trying to write API sample apps for our software in all the various languages, the discussion kinda went like this: "Oh, you wrote a COBOL program once? OK, you're the COBOL expert." Or "Whoever used it last is the expert." Expertness depends on the size of your pool :-). But I agree with your approach.
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