Trend Watch

Did Trump Say 'Bigly' or 'Big League'?

Both are real words, though 'big league' is rarely used as an adverb

Lookups for big and bigly spiked on September 26th and 27th. Many people heard bigly when Trump said big league in the debate:

I'm going to cut taxes big league and you're going to raise taxes big league. End of story.

Trump often uses the phrase big league in a figurative sense; the manner in which he pronounces these words have caused many people to assume that he was using a single word (bigly), rather than two.

Big league has been in use since 1882 as a term for the major league of professional baseball (particularly in the United States, although it has also been used to refer to the upper echelons of other sports). The term began to see figurative use in the early 20th century.

Our files indicate the big league has been used as a figurative adjective since 1916:

The candidate for governor spoke next, Mr. DesChamps being the first of the “big league” candidates introduced.
The Greenville News (Greenville, SC), 23 Jun., 1916

And the phrase has been in use as a noun in a figurative sense since at least 1930:

“Oh, bottle that in your goodlookin’ mush. You miss those penny-ante punks you thought were big shots in Chi. You’re in the big league now, red head. What they took down is tips to waiters here.”
The Morning News (Wilmington, DE), 14 Nov., 1930

The adverbial use of big league favored by Trump is not often encountered.

Trend Watch tracks popular lookups to see what people are talking about. You can always see all Trend Watch articles here.

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