The term ultracrepidarian was first publicly recorded in 1819 by the novelist, playwright William Hazlitt who was famous as a literary critic and a renowned for his sharp writing. He used the term in his open letter to William Gifford who was also a renowned editor and poet and was famous as a satirist and controversialist. William Hazlitt wrote to William Gifford “You have been well called an Ultracrepidarian critic”. The term was used again four years later in 1823, in a satire by Hazlitt’s friend Leigh Hunt in a satire on William Gifford for his habit of giving opinions on all matters – some which were outside his field of knowledge. Ultracrepidarianism is the habit of giving opinions and advice on matters outside of one’s filed of knowledge. The German word Besserwisser is also used in some languages, literally meaning “better knower.”
Unfortunately, we encounter ultracrepidarians in all walks of life who act as though they have been everywhere and have experienced everything. You bump into them at a party, in travels, in a theatre, in your neighborhood, in a super market – everywhere. What do you do? Your job is to simply acknowledge his brilliance with an occasional nod. They act as though they have solution for each problem. They have strong opinions, which they deliver in an obnoxious manner. They tend to monopolize conversations, dismiss input from others and make decisions without first considering all the facts.
Some persons can be called experts in particular subjects; but, no human knows everything about anything. It is not possible. And, the experts have their opinion on topics related to their area of knowledge. That is the natural order of things. Voicing opinion is a different story. That can be a tendency or a family trait. Opinions cannot be logical or scientific always. They can come out of cultural bias, ethical bias, racial bias but people voice their opinion for a need for validation. Any of these processes that are excessive, including saying meaningless things, eventually gets to be irritating to others. Ultracrepidarians tend to share opinions to back up or solidify their views on everything. Such people are tagged as “Show off” or “Know-it-all”.
When we read something new, or when we find a new product, we make our opinions about that product within a matter of seconds. Often our opinion is based on our first impression. While first impressions help to clarify our feelings about something, they are often stored in our memory as somewhat ‘factual’ opinions based on our experiences. Some people are so exasperating who just shoot out their opinions based on half baked knowledge on anything under the sun. Nobody likes to hang out with such people.
Some things are beyond the mind, thus beyond understanding. People must realize that every human has limitations. All infinite and never-ending things are beyond the mind, and the essence of everything is infinite and never-ending.
It is best to ignore the ultracrepidarians; if you cannot get rid of them, ask those pointed questions and the source of information and where they found the source. Tell them they need to have facts in order before speaking out. Make them understand that half knowledge is dangerous. Confront them fearlessly; chances are they will learn to shut their mouth. Else, deflect their comments with a simple, ‘Thanks for that suggestion’ instead of engaging them in an ongoing conversation. If need arises, be rude and cut them short.