Donald's Trumpisms have us all reaching for the dictionary

The US president’s use of language can be ridiculous and educational all at once, says Bette Browne.

The US president’s use of language can be ridiculous and educational all at once, says Bette Browne.

US president, Donald Trump, once declared: “I have the best words” and perhaps he does, bigly.

But whatever about the best words, he has bequeathed some of the most bizarre ones to the English language. Some can be useful, while others are embarrassing. Lest we forget, here’s a look at some Trumpisms, how they found their way into the lexicon, and what they mean for those still mystified by them.

First up, as cited above, is a favourite — ‘bigly’. Trump first uttered it in his victory speech after the 2016 Indiana primary, telling supporters they were going to “win bigly” in the presidential election.

And he was right. They did win bigly, although he rather spoiled it by remonstrating with those who said the win wasn’t really that bigly, because his rival, Hillary Clinton, had swept the popular vote, bigly.

All that haggling tended to take some of the shine off the word, but, happily, the president continues to use it. And that’s a good thing, because it’s actually a real word that was close to death until he revived it, according to the Oxford Dictionary’s website.

“It looked like the adverb ‘bigly’ was sliding inexorably toward obsolescence. It had been used in English since around 1400, but, after 600 years, its use had dwindled...It’s clear that bigly hasn’t gone away.”

Another popular word combination during his campaign was his exhortation to “lock her up”, in reference to Clinton.

But, amid Robert Mueller’s investigation of any collusion by the Trump team with Russia in swinging the election Trump’s way, some are turning the phrase against him.

“Lock him up,” was the chant from some New Yorkers, when he visited recently — clearly, the season of goodwill has yet to take hold in the Big Apple!

We have Clinton to thank indirectly, too, for inspiring Trump to give us the word ‘schlonged’. “She (Clinton) was favoured to win [in 2008 against Barack Obama] and she got schlonged. She lost,” Trump declared in a 2015 debate.

Schlong is a vulgar term, in Yiddish, for penis, and Trump’s use of the word was seen by some as sexist.

Clinton also put her foot in it, when she referred to Trump’s supporters as “deplorables.” She only meant “some” of them, she clarified later.

Among all the words Trump has bequeathed to the English lexicon, few are more bizarre than ‘covfefe’.

This came in a late night Tweet back in May. It read simply: “Despite the constant negative press covfefe.”

This sparked all kinds of questions — was it a secret code word to his friend, Vladimir? Was it a signal to Mueller to back off the Russia probe?

Some entrepreneurs put the word on a T-shirt and started selling it on eBay. Then, the mystery was spoiled, when it was suggested he was simply reaching for the word ‘coverage’.

While Trump himself loves to use the words ‘fake news’, he has also clearly schooled his White House advisers in the creative use of words. It was Kellyanne Conway who introduced the world to the existence of ‘alternative facts’.

She also attributed sinister motives to harmless microwaves, suggesting they were spying.

When asked about Trump’s false allegation, in March, that former US president, Barack Obama, had wiretapped Trump Tower’s phone lines, Conway responded this way to New Jersey’s The Record newspaper: “What I can say is there are many ways to surveil each other now, unfortunately,” including “microwaves that turn into cameras.” Trump’s way with words is even catching on with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-Un.

After Trump called Kim a “rocket man” in a UN speech, the North Korean leader countered that Trump was a “dotard”.

This sent many Americans scrambling to the dictionary, since the word has largely fallen out of usage.

Some America educators may be aghast at the notion that Trumpisms are actually good for the country.

A poll has shown, however, that Trump’s utterances have more and more Americans running to dictionaries to check out words. Dictionary.com commissioned a survey by Harris Poll, asking 2,200 Americans how they are dealing with current affairs.

Half of them said they are reading more political news, since the 2016 election, and nearly 60% said they feel a greater need to analyse the meaning of words used by politicians.

Indeed, the poll found that a third of Americans have looked up words because of the election and have expanded their vocabularies in the process, bigly.

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