Trend Watch

Trumpery

A Twitter meme caused lookups to spike


Definition:

Worthless nonsense

When it spiked:

March 3rd, 2016

Lookups for trumpery have been spiking periodically since the end of 2015, as a result of the burgeoning political fortunes of Donald Trump. Recently, people have begun posting trumpery definitions to various social media sites. This fairly obscure word has a decidedly negative set of meanings which have delighted the real estate mogul’s detractors.

Samuel Johnson defined 'trumpery' as "1. Something fallaciously splendid: something of less value than it seems; 2. Falsehood, empty talk. 3. Something of no value: trifles"

Samuel Johnson, in his great dictionary of 1755, assigned three senses to trumpery, none of which were terribly appealing:

(1) Something fallaciously splendid; something of less value than it seems
(2) Falsehood, empty talk
(3) Something of no value; trifles

Earlier in the 18th century, Nathan Bailey gave a slightly more concise definition in his Dictionarium Bratannicum: “Trash, sorry, pitiful, paultry Stuff.”

Trumpery has been in use in English since the late 15th century, and has been used, at one time or another, to refer to weeds, people (especially women of doubtful character), religious matters (especially those that are superstitious in nature), and generally worthless things in a broad sense.

While those opposed to Donald Trump may quote Samuel Johnson’s secondary definition of trumpery ("something of less value than it seems"), those in favor of him have pointed out that the word trump itself carries such favorable meanings as "a dependable and exemplary person" and "a decisive overriding factor or final resource."



Seen and Heard