Saturday, August 11, 2012


Ann from Traverse City asked about the word claptrap. It now means rubbish, nonsense, foolishness. It has definitely taken on negative undertones and overtones.

Its origin was not entirely negative, though it was steeped in cynicism. Nathan Bailey [Universal Etymological English Dictionary II, 1727–31], defined it as “a name given to the rant and rhimes that dramatick poets, to please the actors, let them get off with: as much as to say, a trap to catch a clap, by way of applause from the spectators at a play.” It depended upon sentimentality and showiness, using proven devices to solicit the approval of a less-than-discriminating audience.

In our day, the annoying laugh track that bolsters many TV comedies has turned into the ultimate claptrap.

SIDEBAR:  Claptrap dancing

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