Open Dictionary word of the week: sock puppetry

Posted by on September 13, 2012

sock puppetry (noun)

writing very flattering reviews of one’s own book on sites such as Amazon, but using a different name so that people do not know that it’s the author writing about his or her own book

Authors including Lee Child, Mark Billingham, Joanne Harris, Charlie Higson and Tony Parsons have signed up to a group statement condemning sock puppetry, the practice of writing reviews pseudonymously to praise one’s own work and criticise that of others.

(Submitted by Harris Park from the UK)

Following on from Orin Hargraves’ wonderful post (it’s not sock puppetry if it’s about another author on the same blog, is it?), I thought sock puppetry was another good example of the kind of term he was referring to:

” … the majority of words for new concepts, functions, and objects that get firmly established are not neologisms; they’re new senses of old words, and the words we like best for newfangled and unfamiliar things are well-known, familiar words that are not very far removed from physical objects, sense data, and our bodies.”

It’s perfect: the sock puppet on one’s own hand, often speaking to itself; so very obviously attached to the person pretending to be someone (something) else. And to make the sock puppet speak the fingers and thumb must meet at the tips and open and close to make that all-too-familiar blah blah blah gesture. A gesture which on this page is voted the fourth most annoying gesture to make when someone is talking. Aside from that I hadn’t realized that authors actually do this. Seems a bit … desperate. As desperate as when you’re trying to be heard in front of a class of 5-year-olds and they won’t hear you, they won’t shut up, it’s like you don’t even exist … so you get hold of your sock – straight off your foot, why not – shove your hand into it, raise it above your head and yell in a high-pitched, alien voice “Look everybody, look at me!” and for a brief, sweet moment silence reigns and all eyes are on you, no, on the sock. Yup, I’ve been there.

Orin has touched on this topic of the sort of old words that take on new meanings before, in this post about the Open Dictionary entry granular, and I have “liked” (I’m making a Facebook thumbs up gesture now, I wonder where that one comes on a list of annoying gestures?) it before. The easiest new concepts to grasp are perhaps so easy because they make use of words that are as physical and familiar as a shell, or a mouse, or a sock, or a familiar gesture.

PS: We really love it when you add your name and location to your entries into the Open Dictionary. That way we can say thanks to Harris Park and TS Rajah and  Olive Endeacott from the UK, Qasem Jamshidi from Iran and Ismaeel from Israel for your recent contributions. Keep ’em coming …

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