The Linguistic Aftermath[1]: Trump Wordplay

The Linguistic Aftermath[1]: Trump Wordplay

Photo by Tim Pierce from Berlin, MA, USA


The US election results have caused consternation around the world. However, this post simply aims to[2] prepare those learning English for the linguistic consequences of Mr Trump’s victory.

As regards[3] buzzwords[4], the greatest Trumpism must be ‘bigly/big-league’ (it is unclear which he is saying). Anyway, the term seems to mean ‘impressively’ as in, “We won bigly”.

However, it is in the world of punning[5] that the President-Elect is really going to have an impact on English. Remember that for eight years headline writers[6] and other wordsmiths[7] have wandered through a linguistic desert[8] because absolutely no puns are forthcoming[9] when you have a name like “Barack Obama” to work with.

“Trump” is different. A “trump (card)” is a playing card from the dominant suit[10] in a card game, so expect to see “Donald plays his Trump Card”. From the noun we get the verb “to trump” which means to conquer. That explains the Democrat placards[11] that read, “Love trumps hate[12] (in contrast to the Republican placards “Love Trump’s Hate[13]. This word is in fact a corruption of “triumph” and there is some room[14] for wordplay along the lines of “Trump-phant” (i.e.[15] Trump triumphant”).

Headlines that praise[16] Mr Trump’s achievements[17] are likely to[18] use the expression “to turn up trumps[19] – or “to come up trumps” – (e.g. Everything Turning Up Trumps as[20] The Donald Makes America Great Again). On the other hand, pieces[21] referring to the President-Elect’s problems with the truth will no doubt make use of “trumped-up charges[22]. This term comes from medieval French tromper (= to deceive[23]).

An older meaning of “trump” is related to trumpet and someone talking about Donald’s lack of modesty[24] may refer to him “Blowing his Own Trump(et)”.  Amusingly[25], one meaning of “to trump” from this sense is to break wind noisily[26]!

British wags[27] have already started punning on “Trumpton”. This was the name of a BBC TV programme about an idealized English village in the 1960s. Of course, the population was all white and very deferential[28]!

It’s going to be a tiresome[29] four years – if only because[30] of the headline punning!

[1] aftermathconsequences, after-effects

[2] to aim to – intent to, try to

[3] as regards – in terms of

[4] buzzwordnewly popular word or expression

[5] punningwordplay

[6] headline writer – sb. who writes the titles in newspapers

[7] wordsmith – sb. who works with words

[8] to wander through a desert – exist in a place that offers no opportunities

[9] no puns are forthcomingno wordplay is possible

[10] suit – (in this case) ‘family’ (hearts, diamonds, clubs or spades)

[11] placardbig sign that you can carry

[12] love trump’s hatelove conquers hate

[13] love Trump’s hate – we love the hate propagated by Donald Trump

[14] room – (in this case) possibility, opportunity

[15] i.e. – (id est) that is

[16] to praisecelebrate, commend

[17] achievementtriumph, accomplishment

[18] are likely to – will probably

[19] to turn up trumps – have better results than expected

[20] as – (in this case) after

[21] pieceitem, article

[22] trumpedup chargesfalse accusations

[23] to deceive – fool, cause sb. to think sth. that is in fact not true

[24] lack of modesty – immodesty, lack of humility, arrogance

[25] amusingly – hilariously, comically

[26] to break wind noisily (break-broke-broken) – have audible flatulence, fart loudly

[27] wag – sb. who makes jokes, a funny guy

[28] deferential – respectful of authority

[29] tiresome – annoying, irritating

[30] if only becauseeven if it is only because


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