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In a word: trumpery

The Baltimore Sun

Each week The Sun's John McIntyre presents a relatively obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar, another brick to add to the wall of your vocabulary. This week's word: 


Surrounded as we are by objects, and people, that are shiny but of little worth, it seems a pity that we do not make more use of the fine old word trumpery (pronounced TRUMP-uh-ree). 

From the French tromper, "to deceive," it came into English in the fifteenth century, meaning "deceit" or "fraud." But, like so many other words in English, it strayed from its etymological origins. Merriam-Webster's Unabridged give us "a trivial or useless piece of equipment, with the synonyms of "bric-a-brac" and "paraphernalia."; "worthless nonsense," with the synonyms "mumbo-jumbo" and "twaddle"; and the archaic "tawdry finery." The brits also use it to mean garden refuse or weeds.

Triviality, worthlessness, and deceptive appearances are the threads that run through the senses. 

Example: From Stephen King's 2011 Newsweek review of the Mildred Pierce mini-series: "Veda leaves for New York, but not before committing one final act far too shocking for the 1945 version of Mildred Pierce to even contemplate—hence the trumpery murder plot."

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