Speaking Under Correction

I’m currently reading The State of the Union: Essays in Social Criticism by Albert Jay Nock (1870-1945). When Nock offered an opinion on a subject with which he was unfamiliar, he’d preface it with the phrase, “I speak under correction.”

This phrase, which seems to have peaked in popularity in the late 19th century, means something like, “liable to error and subject to correction.” It’s a shorthand way of saying, “Here’s my view on the topic, but since I don’t have much direct experience or expertise in this matter, I offer it provisionally, and with an openness to being corrected by those who do.”

I was immediately struck by the elegance and humility of the phrase, and the notion that I would be a much more pleasant person to talk to if I prefaced about 90% of what I say with it.

I don’t have much hope that “speaking under correction” will return to common usage in the era of social media, but wouldn’t it be a fine thing if it did?