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An early 20th-century postcard by the Suffrage Atelier highlighting a situation of ostrichism (sense 2) by depicting those opposing women’s suffrage as an ostrich with its head buried in sand

ostrich +‎ -ism. The ostrich is often erroneously believed to bury its head in the sand to hide from predators.



ostrichism (uncountable)

  1. The act of hiding, often unsuccessfully, by ducking one's head out of view. [from mid 19th c.]
    • 1833, [Theodore Edward Hook], chapter XII, in Love and Pride. [...] In Three Volumes, volume III, London: Printed for Whittaker & Co., [], OCLC 230665797, page 236:
      After a short delay, during which several aristocratic carriages rolled by—at which periods the Marquess adopted the celebrated system of ostrichism, and hid his head—the omnibus rattled on towards town.
    • 1841 May, Lord William [Pitt] Lennox, “The Westminster Boy”, in Craven [pseudonym; John William Carleton], editor, The Sporting Review. A Monthly Chronicle of the Turf, the Chase, and Rural Sports in All Their Varieties, volume V, London: John Mitchell, Sporting Review Office, [], OCLC 504083823, pages 355–356; republished in chapter VI, in Percy Hamilton; or, The Adventures of a Westminster Boy. [...] In Three Volumes, volume I, London: W. Shoberl, publisher, [], 1851, OCLC 13403936, page 159:
      In a second, we all three fell back on the roof of the coach, hiding our faces with our hands, and committing that gross act of ostrichism of fancying, because we could not see that we escaped observation.
  2. (derogatory) A policy of burying one's head in the sand, that is, ignoring the reality of a situation. [from mid 19th c.]
    • 1871 May 3, “Justice” [pseudonym], “The Torpey Case”, in Public Opinion: A Comprehensive Summary of the Press throughout the World on All Important Current Topics, volume XIX, number 502, London: Office, 11, Southampton Street, Strand, London, W.C., published 6 May 1871, OCLC 150331806, page 551, column 2:
      [Torpey] had, upon the principles of ostrichism, sewn up a valuable diamond in the waistband of his trousers, which he fondly intended for his fond and loving wife; and accomplice in his crimes; []
    • 1940 May 24, “Ostrichism”, in The Evening Standard, London; quoted in Tracy Groot, chapter 16, in Kathryn S. Olson, editor, Maggie Bright: A Novel of Dunkirk, Carol Stream, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, 2015, →ISBN, page 165:
      First let us have no ostrichism in our preparations against an invasion of this island. There are still some who scorn the idea. Can [Adolf] Hitler succeed where Napoleon failed? No, they say, the Channel is impregnable. We would do better to prepare for the worst.
    • 2013, Eleni Panagiotarea, “The ‘Good’ EMU Years”, in Greece in the Euro: Economic Delinquency or System Failure?, Colchester, Essex: ECPR Press, →ISBN, page 121:
      [] Greece was truly 'in a league of its own', with its combination of persistent fiscal imbalances and protracted losses of competitiveness. At the bottom of this was a peculiar form of ostrichism, an ostrich-like behaviour, eagerly adopted by Greek policy makers; in fact, they buried their heads in the ground, almost uninterrupted, until well into 2009. Routine deviation from targets, over-optimistic assessment of planned procedures and missed timetables quickly came to define the Greek approach to its obligations under the Stability and Growth Pact.

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