Lookups for 'Complicit' Spiked after an SNL Sketch Used the Word to Describe Ivanka Trump
Lookups for complicit (“helping to commit a crime or do wrong in some way”) spiked after Ivanka Trump said "I don't know what it means to be complicit" during an interview with CBS's Gayle King.
The word had previously trended after it was used as the name of a perfume in a skit on Saturday Night Live. The skit featured Scarlett Johansson portraying Ivanka Trump.
It’s an argument SNL makes, cannily, via the less political side of Ivanka’s public image: her status as a fashion icon, as a brand, as a person known both for her looks and for her Look. As the ad’s sultry voice-over explains of the Trump daughter, “She’s beautiful … she’s powerful … she’s … complicit.”
—Megan Garber, theatlantic.com, 12 Mar. 2017
Complicit is thought to be a back-formation (a word formed by shortening an existing, and longer, word), taken from the older complicity (“association or participation in or as if in a wrongful act”). Complicity has been in use since at least the middle of the 17th century, when Thomas Blount defined the word memorably (and succinctly) as “a consenting or partnership in evil.” Complicit is considerably more recent, with our earliest evidence currently coming from the middle of the 19th century.
After stating that a recruiting rendezvous had been established in the United States by complicit British civil and military officers, he says these considerations, and the fact that the cause of complaint was not a mere casual occurrence, but deliberately designed and conducted by responsible public functionaries, impelled me to present the case to the British Government.
—The Louisville Daily Courier (Louisville, KY), 1 Jan. 1856
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