Ultracrepidarianism

Ultracrepidarianism [uhl-truh-krep-i-dair-ee-uhn-iz-uhm] is the habit of giving opinions and advice on matters outside of one’s knowledge. The term was first publicly recorded in 1819 by the essayist William Hazlitt in a letter to William Gifford, the editor of the ‘Quarterly Review,’ a London periodical. The term draws from a comment purportedly made by Apelles, a famous Greek artist to a shoemaker who presumed to criticise his painting. The Latin phrase, ‘Sutor, ne ultra crepidam’ meaning literally ‘Shoemaker, not above the sandal,’ used to warn people off passing judgement beyond their expertise.

As the story goes, the shoemaker (sutor) had approached the painter Apelles of Kos to point out a defect in the artist’s rendition of a sandal (crepida), which Apelles duly corrected. Encouraged by this, the shoemaker then began to enlarge on other defects he considered present in the painting, at which point Apelles silenced him with his famous ‘Sutor, ne ultra crepidam.’ The saying remains popular in several languages, and is translated directly into the common Dutch saying ‘schoenmaker, blijf bij je leest’ (shoemaker, stick to your last, a last being the wooden pattern used in shoemaking).

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