Trend Watch

'A Date Which Will Live in Infamy'

Lookups for 'infamy' spike every December 7th


Infamy was one of our top lookups on December 7th, 2016, as it is on that day every year. On this day in 1941, Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japanese planes, in a surprise attack which prompted President Franklin Roosevelt to declare in a speech the following day that December 7th would be “a date which will live in infamy.” Although Roosevelt did not actually use the phrase “day of infamy,” his speech addressing Congress has come to be widely known by that title.

infamy

Front page of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, December 7th 1941. Lookups for 'infamy' spike annually on December 7th.

Infamy, which is from the Latin word infamia, has been in use in English since the 15th century. And although Roosevelt did not use day of infamy, many other writers before him have employed that particular turn of phrase. Regardless of what words were used in that speech of 1941, day of infamy is now inextricably linked with our 32nd President.

This was a day of infamy to the Parisians; but a day of glory to the house of Bourbon!
—John Gifford, A Narrative of the Transactions Personally Relating to the Unfortunate Lewis the Sixteenth, 1793

You are sent with all your crimes before an offended Creator—that day which you had pointed out as the time when you would defend your honour, which in a moment of irritation has been insulted, has become to your character a day of infamy and disgrace; to your friends, or lasting sorrow.
—G*****, The Ladies’ Literary Cabinet, 27 Jul. 1822

With my own hands have I done this ever since December, without throwing the veil over a single wound—without bating a single day of infamy—and yet you calmly tell me to wait!
Punch (London, Eng.), 27 Nov. 1852

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