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
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