22 January 2008

Comment Question: Was Mencken Right?

 

The early 20th century American social critic and humorist H. L.Mencken, known for his "definitions" of terms, defined a demagogue as "one who will preach doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots."

demagogue

1 : a leader who makes use of popular prejudices and false claims and promises in order to gain power,
2 : a leader championing the cause of the common people in ancient times
1 : a leader who makes use of popular prejudices and false claims and promises in order to gain power 2 : a leader championing the cause of the common people in ancient times
Etymology:
Greek dçmagôgos, from dçmos people + agôgos leading,

3 comments:

ImperfectNerd said...

I think a "demogogue" is a guy whose sharpening business fails because he only has one axe to grind!

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

and grinds it until it is totally dull!

I like the second definition better than the first BUT it's the first one that seems to have taken over in modern times.

ImperfectNerd said...

True, words evolve like trees, with new leaves and shoots and branches. The word itself, and the meaning with which we use it (or misuse it) as well. In English we borrow so much and then we take that gift and make it serve whatever convenience or prejudice that comes along.