2018, a year of Trumpery and no Mugabe wit, writes Karan Thapar
As a noun ‘Trumpery’ means ‘rubbish’ and as an adjective it means ‘showy but worthless’. In either case, it describes dear Donald brilliantlyUpdated: Dec 30, 2018 08:45 IST
It’s nearly 2019 and two years since Donald Trump became the US president and I’m surprised no one has used the word ‘Trumpery’ to describe him. Admittedly it’s an old word that’s infrequently used but it fits the man perfectly. As a noun it means ‘rubbish’ and as an adjective it means ‘showy but worthless’. In either case, it describes dear Donald brilliantly.
However, there’s a word we use all the time – usually without appreciating it – that I shall now turn to. It’s a two-letter word that can be a noun, verb, adjective, adverb or preposition. Pause and try to guess what it is.
Give up? This word has more meanings than any other. It’s ‘UP’. The more you find out the more you’ll marvel.
It’s easy to understand UP, meaning towards the sky, but when we awaken why do we wake UP? At a meeting why does a topic come UP? Why do we speak UP, why are officers UP for election and why is it UP to the secretary to write UP a report? We call UP our friends, brighten UP a room, polish UP the silver, warm UP the leftovers and clean UP the kitchen. We lock UP the house and fix UP dinner.
On occasion, this word has special meaning. People stir UP trouble, line UP for tickets, work UP an appetite, think UP excuses and dress UP for a party. When something is UP you’re concerned but when you’re on the UP and UP you’ve got lucky!
UP can also be confusing: A drain must be opened UP because it’s plugged UP. We open UP a store in the morning but close it UP at night. In fact, we can get pretty mixed UP. When it threatens to rain we say it’s clouding UP. When the sun comes out we say it’s clearing UP. When it rains the earth soaks it UP. When it doesn’t things dry UP.
Now if you think I’m UP the spout let’s UP the ante. To be UP to the mark look UP the word in the dictionary. It takes UP half a page and adds UP to fifty definitions. If you’re UP to it you might build UP a list of the many ways it’s used. It’ll take UP a lot of time but if you don’t give UP you may wind UP with a hundred. So, as I wrap UP, remember I’m not UP to tricks.
Finally, a man who used words indifferently but managed to convey an awful lot of meaning. Few will recall him but during the 37 years he was in power he was unforgettable. I refer to the unlamented Robert Mugabe. Some of the things he’s allegedly said resonate with native wit.
“Treat every part of your towel nicely because the part that wipes your buttocks today will wipe your face tomorrow”, is one of the most striking. Another is his take on beauty: “If you’re ugly, you’re ugly. Stop talking about inner beauty because men don’t walk around with X-ray machines to see inner beauty.” And then there’s his swipe at the American President: “If I’m given a chance to travel through time, I’ll go back to 1946 and find Donald Trump’s father and give him a condom.”
My favourite is an exchange between Mugabe and an unidentified interviewer. Interviewer: “Mr. President, when are you bidding the people of Zimbabwe farewell?” Robert Mugabe: “Where are they going?”
And now my time is up. Happy New Year!
Karan Thapar is the author of The Devil’s Advocate: The Untold Story
The views expressed are personal