• tartuffery •
tahr-tuf-êr-ri • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: Religious hypocrisy, hypocritical piety, sanctimony.
Notes: Today we have an unfortunately politically topical Good Word. As we enter the election season in the US, we are bound to see more of it. It is the adjective for tartuffe "religious hypocrite". Two adjectives have been tried: tartuffian and tartuffish. One other word, tartufism, lost the battle with tartuffery for the abstract noun position in the family.
In Play: Tartuffery is fake piety: "Siddie Hall's tartuffery was well known by the congregants of the church she occasionally visited." It is easy to play with this word: "Jerry Falwell, Jr. fell well out of the presidency of Liberty University when his tartuffery was exposed."
Word History: This word is based on an eponym of Tartuffe, the main character in a play by Moliere, Tartuffe, ou l'imposteur (Tartuffe, or the Imposter), first performed in 1664. Tartuffe entered the English language in the 17th century, shortly after the play, and tartuffery soon after that. The play is about the treachery of a devious imposter, Tartuffe, and his victim Orgon Molière. Tartuffe, feigning piety, is living off the misplaced generosity of Orgon. The family of Orgon can see through Tartuffe's charade, so the son of Orgon hides and catches Tartuffe seducing Orgon's wife. Orgon, however, believes Tartuffe's denial over his son's accusation. To further assuage Tartuffe, Orgon signs over all his worldly goods to Tartuffe. Tartuffe then summons the police to throw Orgon out of his house, but the police arrest Tartuffe instead for his treachery. It turns out that Tartuffe has a long criminal record and is a wanted man.
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