Trend Watch

Melania Trump Accused of Plagiarism

Two paragraphs of the aspiring First Lady's RNC speech resembled two paragraphs from Michelle Obama's 2008 DNC speech

Melania Trump’s speech was supposed to be the highlight of Monday night’s Republican National Convention, and it almost certainly will be considered the most memorable speech of the night—because it was clear that her speechwriters remembered entire passages from Michelle Obama’s speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. The similarities are striking and often word-for-word; a video juxtaposing the two speeches shows that they seem to echo each other. Plagiarize and plagiarism both spiked in online dictionary lookups.

Plagiarize means “to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own” or “to use (another's production) without crediting the source.” It is a word that frequently spikes in September, when school and college orientations are taking place, because they usually include warnings about plagiarism policies.

The verb plagiarize comes from the slightly older noun plagiary, which could refer to either a plagiarist or a kidnapper. The “kidnapper” sense of this word hearkens back to the Latin word plagiarius, a word for someone who would kidnap children or freemen and sell them into slavery. By the first century CE the word was being used in Latin to refer to a person who stole the words, rather than the children, of another.

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