Trend Watch

McCain: Half-Baked, 'Spurious' Nationalism

A synonym of 'false' meaning "of a deceitful nature"

Spurious rode to the top of our lookups on October 17th, 2017, after Senator John McCain employed this adjective as a way of modifying and decrying present-day nationalism.

In what appeared to be a thinly veiled reference to politics in the Age of Trump, Sen. John McCain on Monday warned Americans against "half-baked, spurious nationalism," calling the abandonment of U.S. global leadership “unpatriotic.”
— Scott Neuman, NPR (, 17 Oct. 2017

Spurious comes from the Late Latin spurius (“false”), which in turn had the earlier Latin meaning “of illegitimate birth.” Although the word did have that meaning early on in its use in English, it appears that its initial use to mean “false” or “deceitful” was in senses unrelated to familial ancestry.

Thei reade this corrupte glose, in a certain spurious booke, goyng in the name of Anacletus.
— William Alley, Ptochomuseion, 1565

Suche a monstruous symoniack, that his spurious progenie and his symonie is noblie set out in vearse in W. Malmesbury, emongest which vearses, this is one: Filius est praesull, pater abba, Symon vterque….
— Matthew Parker, A Defence of Priestes Mariages, 1567

The senator from Arizona was, we presume, using the word in its "of a deceitful nature or quality" sense, rather than impugning the parentage of the word nationalism.

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