Thanks to how similar travesty sounds to tragedy, I think I was always laboring under some false ideas about this one…especially because it often is a tragedy when something is also a travesty.
Travesty, however, comes from the Latin and Italian words that mean “to disguise.” It’s from trans (across, beyond) + vestire (to clothe), so literally “to dress over” in a way that would alter beyond recognition.
Travesty entered the English language in the 1660s, meaning “dressed in a way to be made ridiculous; parodied” from the French travesti, meaning “dressed in disguise.” By the 1670s, it was applied to literary parodies of more serious works. So there we go– a travesty is a mockery or parody of something, a “disguise” of the real thing.
So literary travesties are fun…but we certainly don’t want to see court rulings that are a travesty of justice!