Word for the Day: Comstockery

Anthony Comstock

comstockery (wordsmith.org)

PRONUNCIATION:(KOM-stok-uh-ree, KUM-) 

MEANING:noun: Overzealous censorship of material considered obscene.

ETYMOLOGY:After Anthony Comstock (1844-1915), founder of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice. He crusaded against anything he considered immoral. Nothing escaped his wrath — even anatomy textbooks for medical students and the draping of mannequins in public view in shop windows were obscene to him. He lobbied for laws against mailing any material that could be perceived as promoting immorality.

He was appointed postal inspector and he seized books, postcards, and other materials by the boatload. He boasted that he had arrested more than 3,000 people and driven more than 15 to suicide. George Bernard Shaw coined the word comstockery after him when he attacked the American production of Shaw’s play “Mrs. Warren’s Profession”.

USAGE:”The language and thought police are hardly some Orwellian invention; America has been unusually susceptible to plagues of Comstockery and self-righteous tomfoolery.”
Jon Newlin; Well, Shut My Mouth; Times-Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana); Oct 13, 1996.

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