Trend Watch

Huckabee Sanders: Comey Committed 'Basic Atrocities'

"A shockingly bad object or situation"

Atrocity was among our top lookups on May 10th, 2017, but for somewhat more benign reasons than one might imagine, given the usual meaning that is attached to this particular word. It was used by deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders this afternoon in reference to the recent firing of FBI Director James Comey; the word was employed in a manner that some felt was semantically imprecise.

As for Comey, Sanders claimed the former director had committed "basic atrocities" while serving as the director of the bureau. "Having a letter like the one he received, and having that conversation that outlined the basic atrocities in circumventing the chain of command and the Department of Justice," she said. "Any person of legal mind and authority knows what a big deal that is.”
The Week (, 10 May, 2017

Atrocity comes from the Latin word atrox (“gloomy, atrocious”), and had never really enjoyed the broadened range of meanings that so many other English words have had over the ages; it has pretty much always referred to something of distinctive unpleasantness. We define it with two senses: “a shockingly bad or atrocious act, object, or situation,” and “the quality or state of being atrocious.”

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