March 02, 2002
Pedantry Alert I: 'Hypocracy'

The subtitle of this page promises pedantry, so here goes. I've never been one to overestimate the average quality of thought and expression on the web, and it no longer surprises me to run across gross misspellings and misuses such as 'lay' for 'lie' on the most reputable sites. However, even I was surprised when a Google search on 'hypocracy', which I have been running across a lot lately, came up with "about 10,800" hits. Even worse, only one or two of the first ten sites listed seem to have been compiled by non-native speakers. (Google did ask whether I actually wanted 'hypocrisy', which was nice of them.) I do wish people would learn to spell, but have two points to contribute:

1. Since in Greek hypo means 'under' and -cracy (more or less) 'power', 'hypocracy' could almost mean 'rule of the underclass' -- paging Theodore Dalrymple!

2. If so many contemporary actors practice hypocrisy, e.g. promising to leave the country if Bush is elected and then failing to do so, they come by it honestly, as it were. 'Hypocrite' and 'hypocrisy' have nothing to do with the '-crat' and '-cracy' words, but come from the Greek word for 'actor'. Any actor is therefore necessarily a hypocrite, at least etymologically. I suppose the idea is that those who spend their working lives pretending to be who they are not and repeating lines that they do not believe would tend to develop the characteristic we now know as hypocrisy, and that it would tend to invade their 'off-duty' lives. So maybe we should cut the Baldwin clan some slack, on the grounds that they just can't help it. Then again, maybe not.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at March 02, 2002 10:00 PM