A Tale of Two 'Hagiographies'
Hagiography spiked in lookups on August 25th, after this relatively obscure word appeared in headlines for two distinct articles about two distinct people.
Ann Coulter’s Donald Trump hagiography was very poorly timed
-The Washington Post (headline), 25 Aug. 2016
Review: In an Obama Biopic, the Audacity of Hagiography?
-The New York Times (headline), 25 Aug. 2016
The earliest meaning of hagiography was “a biography of saints” (it comes from Greek roots for “holy” and “writing”). The word has been used in this sense in English since the early 17th century.
First therefore, If I be demaunded whether through the world there were not many sundry Abces inuented of diuers men? I answere, there was but one: and that one, of God himselfe, the true Hagiography or Hieroglyps of our first Fathers.
-Alexander Top, The Olive Leafe, 1603
Today, however, the word is most often employed in a largely figurative sense, relating to a biography that idealizes its subject (as seen in the two headlines above).
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