Photo by Dimitar Donovski on Unsplash

Another book, another vocabulary word.

Therapist Lori Gottlieb in her excellent book Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed defines ultracrepidarianism as “the habit of giving opinions and advice on matters outside of one’s knowledge or competence.” How have I survived so long without this extremely useful word? How many ultracrepidarians have I encountered in my life? (How many times have I myself exhibited creeping ultracrepidarianism?)

People have advised me to write books about various subjects I have no interest in.

Years ago, a friend of my husband gave me several second-hand dresses, because he thought they looked like what I should wear. Rather than what I did wear. He also advised me as he watched me bake cookies, that I should add more salt. Needless to say, he did not bake.

Sometimes I tell my husband how much he should charge for a movie he’s showing.

While you’re thinking of your own examples, let’s take a look at the word’s origins. The Roman writer and naval commander Pliny the Elder (24-79 CE) recounted the story of the Greek painter Apelles and a cobbler who criticized his artistic rendering of a shoe. Apelles accepted the correction, but the emboldened critic found further fault with the painting. “Ne supra crepidam sutor iudicaret,” Apelles reportedly told the upstart.  That is, “Let the shoemaker not judge above the sandal.”


Pliny pointed out that this line became a Roman aphorism: Sutor, ne ultra crepidam, meaning, “Shoemaker, not beyond the sandal.” An English proverb, “Cobbler, stick to your last (the mold for a shoe),” expresses the same sentiment.

Nowadays we would say, “Stay in your lane.” See photo above.

Share your ultracrepidarian examples in the comments.

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6 Responses to Everythingology

  1. Kathy says:

    Barb–Hmmmm. Now you’ve got me thinking . . .

  2. Kathy says:

    Jewel–I found it hard to think of examples, too! Especially of my own ultracrepidarianism!

  3. Kathy says:

    Mary–So good to hear from you here!

    My parents used to say this, too! There’s no disputing about taste!

  4. Barb Ewing Cockroft says:

    I loved reading this, Kathy! One of my favorite expressions (which I can actually remember) is “stay in your lane.” A lot of needless heartbreak may have been mitigated had someone stayed in her lane. (Name withheld on purpose).

    Thank you for yet another engaging blog post.

  5. Jewel Moulthrop says:

    As a self-appointed critic at large, I’m sure I’ve had a few . . . many . . . a gigantic amount . . . of ultracrepidarian moments, though I can’t think of a single one (she said innocently).

  6. Mary A. Smith says:

    Only tangentially related…..but, this reminded me of a Latin phrase which my mother
    taught me many years ago about taste….something like “De gustibus non disputandum est.” When we were in public together and saw something we both thought was unsightly, we would look at the other and just say “De gustibus.”

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