A discussion arose in our office which brought about remembrance of an old term used by William F. Buckley, Jr. — from his old National Review days — in his "Word of the Day." We can't find the term on the Interwebs, so we come to SE:ELU in hopes of enlightenment.

The definition, as we recall is:

"Being ignorant of something of which you have neither reason nor expectation to have any knowledge."

I'd really like a reference to Buckley's WotD if possible since it will be used frequently in my geek- and academic-heavy office!

  • I'm guessing; .1. pig-ignorant .2.incorrigible.3. purblind. – Hugh Jun 11 '15 at 13:48
  • @Hugh - are you guessing, or can you provide a reference? We are really hoping for that since Buckley's WotD was very popular back in the day and we'd like to make use of that resource as well if possible. I've updated my question to reflect that. – Sam Jun 11 '15 at 13:51
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    I suppose there might be some justification for pig-ignorant (we don't exactly expect pigs to know much). But incorrigible usually applies to behaviour which is Incapable of being corrected, not lack of knowledge. And I only know purblind as pejorative dim-witted, stupid, so for me at least it doesn't carry associations of [naturally] unaware of knowledge one wouldn't be expected to have anyway. – FumbleFingers Jun 11 '15 at 14:05
  • So to translate, you don't know about something that you probably aren't expected to know about? You may be literally a rocket scientist, but not know about gene sequencing? (because that's specialized knowledge outside of what you'd be expected to know)? Is that the meaning of the word? So it wouldn't really be a synonym of 'ignorant', right? – Mitch Jun 11 '15 at 15:23
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    Apparently OP's target word has to be more nuanced or unique than unconversant. Which probably rules out ignoramus, since it's easy to find online definitions for that. But I doubt I'd find the variant ignoramo in many dictionaries, so that could be a contender (except Buckley probably never featured that one! :) – FumbleFingers Jun 11 '15 at 18:29

I think I may have found the term the OP is searching. It is without doubt a word I have never heard of before. It's worth citing the entire Wikipedia article


Ultracrepidarianism is the habit of giving opinions and advice on matters outside of one's knowledge.

The term ultracrepidarian was first publicly recorded in 1819 by the essayist William Hazlitt in an open Letter to William Gifford, the editor of the Quarterly Review: "You have been well called an Ultra-Crepidarian critic." It was used again four years later in 1823, in the satire by Hazlitt's friend Leigh Hunt, Ultra-Crepidarius: a Satire on William Gifford.

The term draws from a famous comment purportedly made by Apelles, a famous Greek artist, to a shoemaker who presumed to criticise his painting. The Latin phrase "Sutor, ne ultra crepidam", as set down by Pliny and later altered by other Latin writers to "Ne ultra crepidam judicaret", can be taken to mean that a shoemaker ought not to judge beyond his own soles. That is to say, critics should only comment on things they know something about. The saying remains popular in several languages, as in the English, "A cobbler should stick to his last", the Spanish, "Zapatero a tus zapatos", the Dutch, "Schoenmaker, blijf bij je leest", and the German, "Schuster, bleib bei deinem/deinen Leisten" (the last two in English, "shoemaker, stick to your last")


I was surprised how few online dictionaries specifically list this one...

unconversant - not conversant, unfamiliar, not well-versed
...from negated...
conversant - familiar by use or study (usually followed by with)

In my experience, when people say they're unconversant with X (or not well-versed in X), there's usually the implication that this lack of knowledge is only to be expected (because X is an obscure fact or field of study, for example).

Perhaps that implication flows naturally from the fact of using a relatively obscure term to describe one's ignorance (i.e. - whilst disclaiming specific knowledge of X, the speaker conveys to his audience that he's not "ignorant" in general).

  • Not many people know that. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 11 '15 at 14:28
  • @Edwin: I can't believe anyone would be unconversant with Michael Caine's contribution to this issue! :) – FumbleFingers Jun 11 '15 at 14:32
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    That's close, but this is more-specifically, a person who is Ignorant of their Ignorance. – Sam Jun 11 '15 at 14:45
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    @SammyB: Then you should amend your question text to clarify, because I don't see any way to infer that from the question as currently framed. Perhaps you're looking for a one-word synonym for blissfully ignorant, in which case unenlightened or benighted might come close. – FumbleFingers Jun 11 '15 at 14:51
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    @SammyB: Now I'm really confused! I've no idea why you think Buckley's words are likely to be "more nuanced or unique" than conversant. But putting that aside, you still haven't edited your question to reflect the requirement that the person thus described should be unaware of his ignorance. And you seem to have just added the further constraint that he should act as if he does know whatever it is that he doesn't know. So maybe he's just a bluffer. But where does the couldn't be expected to know element come in? – FumbleFingers Jun 11 '15 at 18:19

The only phrase linked to Buckley that I could find was pontificate:

... from those shows on which journalists and commentators are invited to be pundits — to pontificate regardless of expertise. Buckley

pontificate defined here by Cambridge on line, example.

Mountebank, charlatan, sophist, phony and phoney are not pithy enough to be memorable. But from skimming some of the Articles, I have two suggestions and hope one of them has the right ring to it: the first describes the blague, the other names the blaguer.

spe·cious (spē′shəs) adj. 1. Having the ring of truth or plausibility but actually fallacious: a specious argument. specious - Oxford Dictionaries

poseur: a person who pretends to be what he or she is not : MW

If you find someone who genuinely remebers the Word of the Day I hope you''l post it.


How about layman?

A person without professional or specialized knowledge in a particular subject: 'the book seems well suited to the interested layman' -- Oxford Dictionaries

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