Word of the Month: Ultracrepidarian

Sutor, ne ultra crepidam

I first came across this word in the ‘Words to Impress’ chapter of The Daring Book for Girls by Andrew Buchanan and Mirian Pesowitz. Knowing that there was a word for the behaviour I executed whilst writing my essays, I felt a little more secure in the world.

Despite slightly different wordings, all definitions more or less come to ‘giving opinions on a subject you don’t understand’. The word itself actually translates to something along the lines of ‘beyond the shoemaker’. It was coined after a cobbler on the streets pointed out that Apelles, a renowned Greek painter, had painted a shoe incorrectly. Apelles took on board the criticism and amended his painting. When the cobbler attempted to criticize further, he replied with the above quote, translating to something along the lines of “Shoemaker, not beyond the shoe.”  cobbler is entitled to talk about the anatomy of a shoe, but not so much the anatomy of a person.

While my younger self found this word amusing to know, as I wrote whole essays on books I claimed to have read and subjects I claimed to have studied, now the word has a much more sinister role in my life. How many people in power are making dangerous and terrifying decisions based on things they don’t know enough about?

So, as January is the beginning of a new year and a lot of major new changes to many people around the world here’s to hoping we can educate the world, and leave the ultracrepidarianism to unfocused high school students.

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