Lookups spiked 80,000% on August 24, 2020
In an editorial published in The Washington Post on August 24, 2020, political science professor Daniel W. Drezner used a word that makes reference to a character in a 17th-century satire—and sent many readers to the dictionary.
In an editorial that criticizes the diplomacy, leadership, and ethics of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Prof. Drezner initially uses the word without much explanation:
Indeed, Pompeo has distinguished himself mostly by becoming the 21st-century avatar of Tartuffery.
But later in his editorial, he goes on to explain his choice of this particular word:
The essence of Tartuffery is believing one’s self to be so pious that one is above ordinary rules and regulations. Pompeo acts this way every time he wanders into an ethical gray zone.
The French playwright Molière wrote Tartuffe, subtitled The Impostor, and it is considered to be among the greatest of his comedies. It was first performed—and immediately banned—in 1664, under the reign of Louis XIV. Its depiction of religious hypocrisy used as leverage for personal gain was a controversial subject at a time when the Catholic church had great influence on the king.
The name of the impostor who ingratiates himself with a wealthy family is Tartuffe.
For our own parts, we can conceive nothing more delectable nor comic than a piece founded on the numerous pleasantries of Ex-Sheriff P., or the tartufferie of Dr. C———.
— The Literary Chronicle (London, Eng.), 18 Sept. 1824
A barrister still finds it enormously tough to secure an acquittal once the accused is faced in court by all the splendour and Tartuffery of the law. Lazy-minded judges often frustrate the conduct of a proper defence.
— Lloyd Evans, The Daily Telegraph (London, UK), 7 Dec. 2002
Trend Watch is a data-driven report on words people are looking up at much higher search rates than normal. While most trends can be traced back to the news or popular culture, our focus is on the lookup data rather than the events themselves.