Have you ever been described as “the laughing stock?” Do you want to know if this is a compliment or not? If this is the case then keep reading and this article will shed the light on the expression for you!
Unfortunately if you have been unlucky enough to be described as “the laughing stock” it does not have positive connotations. The idiom is used in order to describe someone as being the object of ridicule or mocking.
The first recorded use of this idiom dates to the 16th century. In 1533 John Frith coined the phrase in his “An other boke against Rastel.” This reads “Albeit … I be reputed a laughing stock in this world.”
It is suggested that the phrase relates to the fact that at this time people were often put in the stocks in order to be executed. This was of course a punishment which was not in the slightest bit funny but many attendees of executions would mock those who were being executed for the punishment they were receiving for the crimes they had committed. Consequently, the idea of being “the laughing stock” arose.
An example of the use of the expression can be found in a quote from Shakespeare’s ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor.’ The quote reads “Pray you let us not be laughing-stocks to other men’s humors; I desire you in friendship, and I will one way or other make you amends.”