This is to inaugurate a new series of posts on Language Lore featuring words from the rich store of English vocabulary that are not in common use but are of particular usefulness withal. Such a word is ‘meretricious’, glossed as follows by The Oxford English Dictionary Online:
Etymology: < classical Latin meretrīcius ( < meretrīc- , meretrīx meretrix n. + -ius , suffix forming adjectives) + -ous suffix.
1. Of, relating to, or befitting a prostitute; having the character of a prostitute. Obs. (arch. in later use).
2. Alluring by false show; showily or superficially attractive but having in reality no value or integrity.
In the Age of Depravity––which is the one that we are living through in the twenty-first century in the United States––this word is particularly apt because the digital revolution has tended to subvert and level all value hierarchies such that something superficially attractive or seemingly meritorious––i. e., meretricious––can blind people to its true status. All one needs to be convinced of the validity of this assertion is to heighten one’s awareness to the category of meretriciousness whenever claims for true merit are advanced for things and ideas in our Umwelt.