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farce (s) (noun), farces (pl)
1. A ridiculous situation in which everything goes wrong or becomes a sham and is not genuine and so it is used for deception: A farce is sometimes used in light dramatic works in which highly improbable plot situations, exaggerated characters, and often slapstick elements are used for humorous effect; including, the branch of literature and the broad or spirited humor characteristic of such works.
2. To fill, a speech, for example, with jokes or witticisms: The debate between the two political contestants turned out to be a ridiculous farce.
3. To stuff, as for roasting: For example, a farce may consist of a mixture of ground raw chicken and mushrooms with pistachios and truffles and onions and parsley and lots of butter and bound with eggs.

The strange background of the word farce

In the Middle Ages, the trade guilds of France (labor unions of that time) presented the first crude one-act plays. By the time of Joan of Arc, these interludes of farces were "stuffed" or "crammed" in between the acts of the main performance. The French word farce is derived from farcier, going back to the Latin farcire which meant "to stuff".

—Based on information from
Word Origins and Their romantic Stories by Wilfred Funk, Litt. D.;
Grosset & Dunlap; New York; 1950; pages 294-295.

When the word farce was first used in English, it referred to "cookery", not comedy. In the fourteenth century the French word farce entered English as farse with its meaning, "forcemeat, stuffing" unchanged from the French interpretation.

The French had derived the noun from the assumed Vulgar Latin word farsa, which had been formed from the past participle of the classical Latin verb facire, meaning "to stuff". This use of farce, spelled this way in English since the eighteenth century, is still evident in some cookbooks today.

The use of farce as comedic feature derives from another sense of the word in early French. From the thirteenth to the fifteenth centuries; especially, in France and Spain, Latin liturgical texts; such as, the chanted parts of the Mass, were frequently interpolated with explanatory or hortatory phrases (giving strong encouragement), often in the vernacular language where it was being presented.

Seeing a similarity between the culinary stuffing and the interlarding of liturgical texts, the French also called such an interpolation a farce (in this sense the word is usually spelled farse in English).

Such "farsing" became abusive, however, and it was officially abolished 1570 when Pope Pius V issued his Roman Missal to displace the multiplicity of missals then in use.

During the fifteenth-century in France, this sense of farce was further extended to "impromptu buffoonery interpolated by actors into the texts of religious plays". Such farces included elements of clowning, acrobatics, reversal of social roles, and even indecency.

The farce developed into a dramatic category and spread quickly, in time developing into the commedia dell'arte in Italy.

In England, the farce became popular in the sixteenth century as a short dramatic work whose primary purpose was to provoke laughter. It continued to flourish as a broadly satirical comedy with absurdly laughable plots.

Although it was successful in nineteenth-century music halls and vaudeville theaters, the farce attracted even larger audiences when it became a favorite motion-picture genre with slapstick routines, mad chases, and pie-throwing scenes.

—Compiled from information located in
Webster's Word Histories; Merriam-Webster Inc., Publishers;
Springfield, Massachusetts; 1989; pages 169-170.
This entry is located in the following unit: farc-, fars- (page 1)
farce (verb), farces; farced; farcing
1. To fill out with witticisms, jibes, etc., as in a play.
2. To fill with dressing, to stuff, as in a chicken, a duck, etc.
This entry is located in the following unit: farc-, fars- (page 1)