Trend Watch

NY Times: Trump's Call Ignites 'Imbroglio'

Painful misunderstanding; bitter altercation; public scandal


Imbroglio (pronounced \im-BROHL-yoh\) play was among our top lookups on October 19th, 2017, following the use of the word to describe the aftermath of President Trump’s conversation with the widow of a soldier.

Trump’s Condolence Call to Soldier’s Widow Ignites an Imbroglio
— (headline) The New York Times (nytimes.com), 18 Oct. 2017

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Photo: Gage Skidmore

Synonyms include 'embroilment,' 'altercation,' and 'scandal.'

Imbroglio comes from the Italian word imbrogliare, meaning “to entangle.” The word, when it first began being used in English, had the meaning of “a confused mass.”

Into the Drawers and China pry,
Papers and books, a huge Imbroglio!
Under a tea-cup he might lie,
Or creased, like dog-ears, in a folio.
— Thomas Gray, Designs by Mr. R. Bentley, 1753

In subsequent years imbroglio took on additional meanings (typically concerned with uncomfortable or tempestuous situations), such as “ an acutely painful or embarrassing misunderstanding,” “a violently confused or bitterly complicated altercation,” or “a public scandal.”

An Imbroglio Averted. We are indebted to Mr. Whitelaw Reid’s prompt and vigorous action for our escape from a national humiliation.
The Washington Post, 24 Jun. 1902



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