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Laughing stock

Posted by Bob on November 01, 2005

In Reply to: Laughing stock posted by Victoria S Dennis on October 31, 2005

: : I need to know what's the origin of the expression "laughing stock", Was it invented by Shakespeare or wasn't it? When is it used usually? Please I need your help urgently!

: An odd one, this. A "stock" originally meant a tree trunk or stump; from this it evolved a collection of senses such as "vertical post" and "insensate block" (the word "blockhead contains a parallel idea). Incidentally, "stocky" comes from the same root, meaning "short and thick like a tree stump". so do "the stocks", the mediaeval device for clamping minor criminals into leg-restraints in the market-place for the crown to jeer and throw rubbish at them. This seems to be the idea behind "laughing-stock" - "something set up in public for people to jeer at".

I've seen it most often as one word, "laughingstock." In this posting, I see two words, and hyphenated. Is there an established usage?