Ultracrepidarianism is the habit of giving opinions and advice on matters outside of one's knowledge.
The term ultracrepidarian 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.
The term draws from a famous comment purportedly made by Apelles, a famous Greek artist, to a shoemaker who commented on a mistake in the depiction of a sandal, which Apelles duly corrected, but who then presumed to criticise other aspects of his painting. The Latin phrase "Sutor, ne ultra crepidam", as set down by Pliny and later altered by other Latin writers to "Ne ultra crepidam judicaret", can be taken to mean that a shoemaker ought not to judge beyond his own soles. That is to say, critics should only comment on things they know something about.
The saying remains popular in several languages, as in the English, "A cobbler should stick to his last"; the Spanish, "Zapatero a tus zapatos" ("Shoemaker, to your shoes"); the Dutch, "Schoenmaker, blijf bij je leest"; the Danish "Skomager, bliv ved din læst"; the German, "Schuster, bleib bei deinen Leisten"; the Polish "Pilnuj, szewcze, kopyta", (the last four in English, "cobbler, stick to your last"), and the Russian "Суди, дружок, не свыше сапога" (Judge not, pal, above the boot), after Alexander Pushkin's poetic retelling of the legend.
- A Letter to William Gifford, Esq. from William Hazlitt, published by John Miller in London; reprinted in Howe, pp. 11–59. The word had been used by Hazlitt a year earlier, however, in the unpublished "A Reply to 'Z'", 1818; Howe, pp. 1–10. Hazlitt's editor, P. P. Howe, believes that the coiner of the term might possibly not have been Hazlitt, but perhaps his friend Charles Lamb; Howe, p. 251.
- At first, the term bore a hyphen, following the editorial practice of the day. A Letter to William Gifford, in Howe, p. 16.
- Pliny, Natural History. Book xxxv. Sect. 84.
- Quinion, Ultracrepidarian.
- SYMBOL NAMES IN RUSSIAN POETRY OF THREE CENTURIES, Valery Somov
- Bergman, Gregory, Isms, Adams Media, 2006. ISBN 1-59337-483-6. (p. 242)
- Howe, P. P. (ed.), The Complete Works of William Hazlitt, vol. 9 (1932)
- Hazlitt, William, The Spirit of the Age (1825)
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