U is for ultracrepidarianism (ABC W)

Sutor, ne ultra crepidam


Ultracrepidarian is an adjective noting or pertaining to a person who criticizes, judges, or gives advice outside the area of his or her expertise. You probably know them, and if you do not, count your many blessings.

One might think that ultracrepidarianism was a concept invented for the 21st century, with people magically being able to espouse wisdom about everything on the Internet.

In fact, the term “was first publicly recorded in 1819 by the essayist William Hazlitt in an open Letter to William Gifford, the editor of the Quarterly Review: ‘You have been well called an Ultra-Crepidarian critic.’ It was used again four years later in 1823, in the satire by Hazlitt’s friend Leigh Hunt, Ultra-Crepidarius: a Satire on William Gifford.”

And roots are much older than that. Ultracrepidarianism “draws from a famous comment purportedly made by Apelles, a famous Greek artist [of the 4th century BC], to a shoemaker who presumed to criticise his painting.” The Latin phrase ‘Sutor, ne ultra crepidam’, was set down by Pliny [the Elder, 1st century A.D.] and later altered by other Latin writers to ‘Ne ultra crepidam judicaret.’ [It] can be taken to mean that a shoemaker ought not to judge beyond his own soles.”

Thus, the sign of well-trained healthcare professionals, for example, is that if something falls outside their field of expertise, they find the person who knows, not pretends to have an answer.

Still, there was a series of ads from Holiday Inn Express that handle the notion of giving advice outside the area of one’s expertise, which are mildly humorous, involving a helicopter pilot, a nuclear reactor scientist, a surgeon, and a rapper, plus several others.

ABC Wednesday – Round 19

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

20 thoughts on “U is for ultracrepidarianism (ABC W)”

  1. That is a great word and I like it better than the currently-popular “mansplaining” (which is slightly different, I guess). (The big problem with “mansplaining” for me is that I have been the equivalent of “mansplained” at by women, and then I don’t know what to call it).

  2. What an amazing word and definition ~ might fit our newly elected President in the USA ~ splitting our country apart ~ who knows what’s to come ~ but incompetence comes to mind and your delightful new word ~

    Wishing you a Happy and Fun Week ~ ^_^

  3. Sounds like my Dad…he’d always start with, “Well, if you’d like my advice…” and I’d just sit there and listen. Eventually, when he got older (as did I) I’d politely smile and say “It’s all taken care of.” OR Not mention anything where he might cut in with his “advice” or “opinion.” LOL

    abcw team

  4. how many letters is that? I didn’t bother to count, We just had our middle school spelling bee. I must have been born without that part of the brain.

  5. I do like that word in fact I have written it in my secret word book for future reference!
    The comment purportedly made by Apelles a famous Greek artist to the shoemaker who presumed to critise his painting.
    ‘Sutor ne ultra crepidam’; Later altered into the latin phrase….
    ‘Ne ultra crepidam judicaret’.(it can be taken to mean that, a shoemaker ought not
    to judge beyond his own soles).
    Now, coming from Liverpool in the UK, which is regarded as the capital of humour
    This latin adage would be translated as ‘A load of old cobblers’!
    Best wishes,
    ABCW team.

  6. One of my favourite words! The story of Apelles needs a little elaboration though. The shoemaker criticised the shoes in one of his paintings and he was forced to correct it. Pleased with himself that he had made the great painter alter his work, he became critical of other parts of the painting. It was at this point that Apelles told him that he should stick to what he knew about!

  7. Thanks for the clarification. Somehow this reminds me of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s criticism of some James Cameron film about the star placement, or some such.

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