Word of the Day for Saturday, 18 November
1. a group of persons hired to applaud an act or performer.
2. a group of sycophants.
In such a book Agaat would then have had a band of supporters, a claque of hand-clappers and whistlers, a villain with a feather in his hat who could egg her on.
-- Marlene van Niekerk, Agaat, translated by Michiel Heyns, 2010
Hired groups or squads to applaud actors and performers are nothing new. The Roman author Suetonius (75–150 a.d.) in his “Life of Nero” (chapter 20, in Lives of the Twelve Caesars) reports that Nero hired 5,000 young men and taught them three different kinds of applause to use in his performances. In Paris by the mid-19th century, claques were organized into “platoons” whose various “squads” were rehearsed to laugh, cry, comment on, and encourage the actors. The great conductor Arturo Toscanini (1867–1957) imposed discipline and decorum on audiences and was instrumental in suppressing claques. Claque entered English in the 19th century.