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  • Obey your master… master!

    At first I was upset that such an innocent thing as “sock puppetry” had been co-opted to mean skeezy authors reviewing themselves, but then I remembered early Metallica. And it all made sense.

  • Joe: I was unsure about the usage too when I first noticed it, but it is memorable, and apt in a way. Master of Puppets hadn’t occurred to me – I was never much of a metaller!
    And I like that word skeezy; hadn’t heard it in ages.

  • I think an important point to make is that, as puppets, sock puppets tend to be rather crude, unconvincing examples. I think this has a bearing on the online use of the term.

    Thus, people who make use of sock puppet accounts are not accused of being devious, machiavellian puppet masters; but of creating a new identity that doesn’t fool anybody.

  • Puppy isn’t just a similar word, it actually is also from pupa, and originally meant a small dog rather than a young one (which was whelp). Pupa, borrowed straight from Latin, means the second stage of an insect’s life, the one from which the adult stage hatches.

    From Latin pupilla, the diminutive of pupa, we get pupil in both senses: the ‘student’ meaning from the earlier ‘orphan, ward’, and the black spot in the eye, from the idea of something very precious (as in the English equivalent, now usually used metaphorically, apple of my eye).

  • Chris: An interesting point, but the sock puppets that were recently exposed in crime-writing circles had gone unnoticed or unchallenged for months or years. And those that have been rumbled to date are presumably outnumbered by those still active.

    John: Thanks. Pupa was familiar to me from biology, but I never made the connection to pupil.

  • A sock puppet is just barely a disguise of the hand of the person “mastering” it. This is part of what makes sock puppets funny. The ease with which, online, one can take on another name (put a sock on one’s hand) and speak in praise of one’s own work, and the lack of skill or art involved, when compared with operating a marionette, for example–no matter how effective–are elements of the meaning of sock puppetry. Puppet masters at least control other beings for their own ends; the sock puppet artist is one person tooting his own horn. Kind of pathetic and ridiculous.

  • Jean: Yes, they’re certainly more crude and stereotypically more clumsy than marionettes. I don’t know if this had anything to do with how the metaphor arose, but we can draw what parallels we wish. Physical sock puppets may be poor disguises, but the figurative online ones have sometimes been disturbingly successful.