A bigly covfefe: 6 times Trump and team made us scramble for a dictionary
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A bigly covfefe: 6 times Trump and team made us scramble for a dictionary

A look at six times US President Donald Trump and his team made us look up dictionaries to figure out what they were trying to say.

world Updated: Sep 23, 2017 11:01 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Donald Trump,Dotard,Kim Jong Un
US President Donald Trump at the UN general assembly session on September 21. (REUTERS)

On Friday, the world rediscovered ‘dotard’ -- an obscure 14th century term that had fallen out of use -- when North Korean leader Kim Jong Un used it as an insult against US president Donald Trump.

In an angry speech laced with threats and insults, Kim said he will tame “the mentally deranged US dotard with fire”. And just like that, dotard became the word of the day on social media.

The Merriam Webster dictionary stepped up to the occasion, explaining that the word refers to “a person in his or her dotage” and comes from the Middle English word doten (meaning “to dote”), which initially had the meaning of “imbecile”.

Calling some one old and senile is rude, but it turns out that Kim’s burn may have carried more bite, after all.

According to some experts, the Korean term used by Kim - “neulg-dali-michigwang-i” - literally translates as “old lunatic” or the even more colourful “old beast lunatic”.

This is not the first time the US president has made a word trend. Dictionaries and lexicography have been very unusual gainers during Trump’s presidency, as the US president’s use of words carries him from one controversy to another.

Here’s a look at six times Team Trump made us look up dictionaries to figure out what they were trying to say:

1. That time when Trump invented ‘Covfefe’

In May, Donald Trump made his greatest contribution to the world of neologisms when he “coined” the word ‘covfefe’. In a now-deleted tweet, Trump wrote, “Despite the constant negative covfefe”. And that was that.

While it was an incomplete mistake, the combined powers of the internet participated in investigating the roots of ‘covfefe’. Social media speculated on what the word could possibly mean, even dictionaries joined in the debate.

Trump later tweeted this, asking people to ‘enjoy’ the word:

Covfefe became so common that Words with Friends, a popular mobile-based word game, added it to its dictionary. And it’s probably a contender for the latest word of the year. Till then, keep them covfefe jokes coming.

2. Trump knows all the ‘bigly’ words

We all know that the US president has the best words -- he told us himself back at a 2015 rally. One of these words is ‘bigly’ -- that Trump has used often in his speeches.

Or does he say ‘big league’? Confounded viewers and journalists have often been left scratching their heads, deciding which one the US President is using. Unlike covfefe, this is one debate that Trump has sort of settled, telling a EWTN, a Catholic broadcast network, that it is ‘big league’ that he uses.

3. Trump knows some bad, bad hombres

During the third presidential debate, Trump was asked his views on immigration. He responded saying, “We have some bad hombres here and we have to get them out.”

The word “hombre” referred to migrants of Mexican or Latin American origin. But Trump mispronounced it as “ombré,” a type of hairstyle, confusing viewers. He was roundly criticised for stereotyping migrants on social media.

4. Yuge

Trump’s pronunciation of ‘huge’ as ‘yuge’ has been a constant source of confusion as well, but it is attributed to his New York City dialect, where speakers drop the ‘h’ in words starting with the ‘hyu’ sound.

It’s also probably the only thing that he has in common with Democrat senator Bernie Sanders, who otherwise has ‘yuge’ differences of opinion.

5. Alternative facts

Not only Trump, his team members also have a tendency to coin new phrases. In January this year, after then press secretary Sean Spicer’s claims of the size of the crowd at Trump’s inauguration were exposed as false, senior adviser Kellyanne Conway had a two-word explanation for what happened: Spicer’s claims were“alternative facts”.

“You’re saying it’s a falsehood. And they’re giving -- Sean Spicer, our press secretary -- gave alternative facts,” she said. Alternative facts opened a can of worms -- in a world where even facts can have alternatives, what can one believe?

But one thing is certain: covfefe is an alternative fact.

6. When Ivanka Trump didn’t know what ‘complicit’ meant

It’s not only us who sometimes need a dictionary. Ivanka Trump needs one too. Ivanka defended herself against criticism, telling CBS newsin April, “ I don’t know what it means to be complicit, but I hope time will prove that I have done a good job and much more importantly, that my father’s administration is the success that I know it will be.”

Soon enough, ‘complicit’ started trending, with Merriam Webster, the dictionary hero of our times, helpfully reminding Ivanka what it meant.

First Published: Sep 23, 2017 10:44 IST