comstockery

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English[edit]

Alternative forms[edit]

Etymology[edit]

Named after Anthony Comstock (1844–1915) (and the Comstock laws which he propagated) + -ery, coined in an editorial in The New York Times in 1895 and famously adopted by George Bernard Shaw in 1905.[1]

Noun[edit]

comstockery (uncountable)

  1. (US) Censorship of literature and performances because of especially broad definitions of obscenity or immorality.
    • 1905, George Bernard Shaw, letter, New York Times, Sept. 26, 1905,
      Comstockery is the world's standing joke at the expense of the United States.
    • 1916, H. L. Mencken, column, Baltimore Evening Sun, July, 19, 1916,
      A people unconvinced of the pervasiveness of sin, the supreme importance of moral problems, the need of harsh and inquisitorial laws--in brief, of the whole Puritan theological and political apparatus--would never have permitted the growth of such curious flowers as Comstockery, so obnoxious and so incomprehensible to all foreigners.
    • 2019 January 18, Mark Green, “Three Authors Consider Contemporary Politics, Anxiously”, in New York Times[1]:
      Yet while chiding extreme libertarianism, [David] Selbourne veers dangerously close to Comstockery in his tsk-tsking of noise that “masquerades as music,” gender fluidity, sperm banks, bad grammar, video plagiarists and other presumed vices.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Craig L. LaMay (September 1997) , “America's censor: Anthony Comstock and free speech”, in Communications and the Law: “The term 'Comstockery,' supposedly invented by George Bernard Shaw in 1905 when Comstock removed his play 'Man and Superman' from the public shelves at the New York Public Library, in fact first appeared as the title for a Times editorial in December 1895.”