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Laughing stock

  • The term laughing stock can be traced back to the mid-sixteenth century. We will look at the definition of the term laughing stock, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

    A laughing stock is someone who is made sport of, who is subjected to mockery, ridicule or humiliation. Usually, the laughing stock is someone who is a serious or respected person and is not used to such treatment. The term laughing stock dates back at least to 1533, and is found in Sir Philip Sidney’s work, An apologie for poetrie: “Poetry … is fallen to be the laughing stocke of children.” Some trace the origin of the term laughing stock to the practice of placing errant villagers in the stocks for a certain period of time, allowing them to be hectored and ridiculed by their fellow citizens. The term laughing stock is sometims seen with a hyphen, as in laughing-stock, but the Oxford English Dictionary prefers the unhyphenated, two-word form.

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    Examples

    The UK has become an “ogre” that is “a laughing stock” across Europe, a senior Labour politician has said, accusing Theresa May of risking the country’s prospects of a Brexit deal by using threatening language. (The Guardian)

    A terrified roller coaster passenger has become an international laughing stock after phone footage of him panicking on the ride was viewed more than seven million times. (The Daily Mail)

    “The station with its rubbish makes Broadmeadows the laughing stock of Victoria; it’s not an image that we want to present to visitors and it’s not something that locals can take pride in.” (The Herald Sun)

    Their problem, of course, is that if Trump’s opposition to the Paris agreement is in fact based upon a belief that man-made climate change is a fraud, he would become an even larger laughing-stock globally, as if that was possible. (The Edmonton Journal)

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