“hypocracy”

This solitary word appears in a margin of one page of my current (5-year span) gradebook. When I wrote it down, or what the context was, or even what course the writer was taking I cannot say. Most likely this is from a first-year student, since their writing topics tend toward social issues rather than literary criticism. But lacking a context of any kind, I can say nothing much about the writer’s intent.

Oh, certainly I knew she meant “hypocrisy,” and I sympathize with anyone who has trouble spelling that, since it seems so strange on the page. I used to look it up almost every time I had to write it, until I taught myself simply to make sure what I wrote “looked wrong”: that more or less guaranteed that I had made the correct spelling choices.

In fact, using various “ends-in” sites just now I have been able to find no other word that ends in -crisy, unless I count “acrisy,” offered by one site but not recognized by my friend Mr. Webster. No wonder “hypocrisy” looks so wrong.

On the other hand, asking litscape.com for words ending in -crACy yields FIFTEEN words: to wit, “aristocracy autocracy bureaucracy democracy gerontocracy hierocracy meritocracy mobocracy monocracy ochlocracy pantisocracy plutocracy stratocracy technocracy theocracy.” And thus my joy in my student’s word…

…because we ALL know that the suffix “cracy” means “form or philosophy of government” or “rule by a particular group,” the group being defined by the root word. An aristocracy is a government by aristocrats. A bureaucracy is a government by bureaucrats. A democracy is government by the demos, or people, or by democrats, those who favor rule by the people. A theocracy is a government by gods or their representatives.

So a hypocracy must be a government by hypos…or by hypocrites, no? Although I guess we’d have to call them “hypocrats” in order to conform to the pattern of the other -cracies.

“Hypo”by itself means “under,” but I doubt that a hypocracy would be a government by underlings; it might be a government by people who are somehow undercover, though—concealing their true selves under some charade or façade. There’s a word for that:  “hypocrite,” which, as Webster says, is “one who affects virtues or qualities he does not have,” someone practicing hypocrisy— “a feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not, especially the false assumption of an appearance of virtue or religion.”

Watching the antics during the maiden week of the 114th Congress of the United States, I can think of no better word for the philosophy of government they seem to be espousing than hypocracy.

See if this term comes in handy for you in your social and political discussions this year. I believe I will be using it a lot. Alas.

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About RAB

Teacher of English writing and literature (college-level); academic-freedom activist; editor and copy editor; theater director, costumer, actress, playwright. View all posts by RAB

8 responses to ““hypocracy”

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