(May 15) ultracrepidarians…


Okay so If I’m being honest, I really was just looking for an excuse to post that picture. It’s hilarious. I know Moses was inspired and so the Holy Spirit told him to write that, but c’mon: It’s hilarious.

But it made me think of a word that I just recently discovered, and that word is “ultracrepidarian.” An ultracrepidarian (ultra-crepi-darian) is a person who criticizes something that is outside his field of expertise. It’s an armchair quarterback, essentially.  Don’t you dare say you’ve never done it. If you’ve ever watched one episode of American Idol you have surely played judge and said “nah, that performance was a little flat here and there…” when, let’s be real, that person nailed the song way better than you or I ever could have. That’s an ultracrepidarian.

The story behind the word is just as great as the word itself:

The story goes that in ancient Greece there was a renowned painter named Apelles who used to display his paintings and hide behind them to listen to the comments. Once a cobbler pointed out that the sole of the shoe was not painted correctly. Apelles fixed it and encouraged by this the cobbler began offering comments about other parts of the painting. At this point the painter cut him off with “Ne sutor ultra crepidam” meaning “Shoemaker, not above the sandal.”

In other words the painter was fine with the shoemaker criticizing the shoe in his painting, but anything (literally) above that he wouldn’t allow, because he had no knowledge to justify his comment.

We could all use a little more humility in our lives. Instead of assuming “my opinion on this subject is important” maybe first ask “do I know what I’m talking about?” and “do I have authority in this matter?” If not, then maybe–just maybe–keeping quiet is the best option.

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