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Word of the Day: ultracrepidarian

April 22, 2014

Word of the day: ultracrepidarian. It means someone who offers opinions on matters about which they know nothing. (I owe this fact to Literary Interest@Interesting Lit, retweeted by Susie Steiner). Isn’t it a great word? I can think of quite a few ultracrepidarians.

It was first recorded in English in a review by William Hazlitt in the early 19th century, but the word derives from an anecdote about a Greek painter, Apelles, in Pliny. Apparently a shoemaker criticised the way Apelles had represented a sandal, so the painter re-painted it accordingly. Then the shoemaker started criticising the way Apelles had done the leg, at which point Apelles told him to stick to matters he knew something about. Ultra means beyond or above, of course, and krepidam was the ancient Greek word for shoe (and I owe this explanation to the excellent website World Wide Words).

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