Defrock. Disbar. Unwig. What are we talking about? Removing someone’s frock, bar, or wig? Not really. Removing someone from office. Removing someone’s license to practice. Punishing someone who abused his title so offensively to have it taken away. But what is the frock, bar, and wig, and who has them to be taken away?
So glad you asked. Defrock references removing someone from the priesthood or other clergy position. The frock, in this instance, would be the robe or habit that is traditional for clergy to wear in many faiths. The bar referenced in the word, disbar, is that little fence that separates the viewers from the business end of the courtroom where the lawyers, judge, and other professionals operate. And unwig references the wigs that certain lawyers and judges wear in Great Britain and the many countries still tied to it or to its customs. Those wigs may be cartoonish to some of us, but they’re a symbol of honor in the locations where they are used.
But wait, there’s more! It just seemed necessary to add that, since I could sense some readers were zoning out at the mention of judges in wigs. Hey, unwig also simply means to take off a wig. You may have even heard of the movie, “This is Spinal Tap” (featuring the fictional band, Spinal Tap), and its sequel called “Unwigged & Unplugged”. The later title makes reference to acoustic music played by uncostumed musicians. So there’s that.
And finally, there is the tale of Alger Hiss. Alger graduated from Johns Hopkins only to follow up with a law degree from Harvard. Lots of similar amazing things followed, like starting the United Nations. Then he was accused and eventually convicted of spying for the Soviets, because why not? And, of course, he was disbarred. But the evidence might not have been as strong as the fear of the Soviets, and he was readmitted to the bar. His disbarment was reversed. He was rebarred. Refrocked. Rewigged. His undoing was undone. Unlike me, because I am done doing.