Nosce te ipsum

Definition: know oneself

Origin: The latin phrase, pronounced “NOS-keh tay IP-sum,” means “know thyself”  and first appeared in written Roman texts circa 1539. The source of this timeless quotation is from ancient Greece. According to the Greek historian, Plutarch, the aphorism was inscribed in the Temple of Apollo at Delphi built around 1100 BC — site of the Pythian Games (the birthplace of today’s Olympic games). The phrase, however, is often attributed to the Greek philosopher, Plato (a student of Socrates), through the character of Socrates in the Dialogues of Plato, written between 399 and 347 BC. The phrase was the inspiration for Shakespeare when he was writing The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark several hundred years later, between 1599 and 1601. Early in the play (Act 1. Scene III) Polonius provides his son, Laertes, with wise counsel:

This above all — to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

For further reading: Amo, Amas, Amat and More by Eugene Ehrlich, Harper & Row (1985). 500 Foregin Words and Phrases You Should Know to Sound Smart by Peter Archer, Adams Media (2012).

There’s a Word for That: Ultracrepidarian

atkins-bookshelf-wordsAn ultracrepidarian is a person who criticizes beyond the scope of their competence; a person who comments on a subject without sufficient knowledge that subject. The word is a derived from the Latin phrase, “Ne supra crepidam judicaret” that literally translated means “beyond the sandal,” but generally means “let him not criticize above the sandal.” Here is the historical context to this interesting phrase: in ancient Roman times, a famous artist named Apelles was drawing a person and started with the feet and sandals first. By chance, a shoemaker happened to be passing and looking at the drawing, criticized Apelles for not drawing the latch of the sandal correctly. The artist deferred to the shoemaker’s legitimate criticism and corrected the drawing. But the shoemaker did not stop at the sandals, he then began to criticize the way the artist drew the legs. At this point, Apelles got angry and shouted at the shoemaker, “Sutor, ne ultra crepidam judicaret!” (Shoemaker, not above the sandal!”). Although Pliny recorded this initial phrase in Natural History (Book 35), later Latin writers modified the phrase to “Ne supra crepidam judicaret.” Essayist William Hazlitt was the first to use the word, ultracrepidarian, derived from the original phrase as recorded by Pliny, in a letter written in 1818, and later in 1819. 

Related word: Philistine, a person uninformed in a specific area of knowledge.

Read related posts: There’s a Word for That: Esprit de l’escalier
There’s a Word for That: Jouissance
There’s a Word for That: Abibliophobia
There’s a Word for That: Petrichor
There’s a Word for That: Deipnosophist
There’s a Word for That: Pareidolia

There’s a Word for That: Macroverbumsciolist

For further reading: ISMs: from Autoeroticism to Zoroastrianism by Gregory Bergman, Adams Media(2006).