Take a wild guess which silver-tongued presidential candidate said the above recently.
Personally, I can’t claim to have “the best words” (not being a narcissistic megalomaniac), but I do love words. The fact that our Middle daughter is an English major and linguistics expert makes my heart sing. She’s a constant source of fascinating word lore AND she has a subscription to the Oxford English Dictionary. My hero.
So my deep passion for words made me start musing.
The word “trump” has long been useful in everyday language. Here are a few meanings behind this word, which originated at least as early as 1300 (Thank you, Online Etymology Dictionary):
- shortened form of “trumpet,” from the Old French trompe “long, tube-like musical wind instrument.” (As in loud and piercing, perhaps?)
- from the 1520’s, “a playing card of a suit ranking above others,” originating from the word “triumph,” which was the name of a card game at the time (which makes John Oliver’s assertion this week, that a certain politician’s family changed their name at some point to “Trump,” even more likely)
- “fabricate, devise,” from the 1690s, “deceive, cheat” from the 1510s, from Middle English trumpen (late 14th century), from Old French “to deceive” (Hmmmm…I’m guessing that family never looked up this particular definition. Or maybe they did.)
Just as interesting, I think, is the fact that this word with all those historical meanings is now pretty much unusable.
Several times in the past few weeks I’ve heard people try to use the word in the course of everyday conversation. Every time they’ve stopped themselves, apologized, and tried to find another word. As in, “This rule trumps any rules we’ve followed in the past. I mean, oops, sorry. Please forget I just used that word. This new rule supersedes all previous rules.”
One blustering, childish, xenophobic, gibbering bully has managed to single-handedly remove a word from our language.
He doesn’t have the “best words,” but he does now, indeed, have one word all to himself.