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Word of the Week: ‘patriot’


We take a closer look at the words and phrases that are trending online and in the media. This week: ‘patriot’.


This week’s word of the week is ‘patriot’, inspired of course by the annual Super Bowl – which this year saw the New England Patriots win for the sixth time. Hurrah. 

This is not going to be a minute-by-minute analysis of the game, the team’s performance or the controversy surrounding Adam Levine’s nipples, however. As wordsmiths, we are drawn to the word at the heart of it all.

As a noun, a patriot is: “a person who loves their country and, if necessary, will fight for it”. It’s synonyms include: nationalism, chauvinism and jingoism.

Its usage dates back to the late 16th century, but originally stems from the Greek ‘patriōtēs’, and the earlier ‘patrios’ – which means ‘of one’s fathers’.

The word – and name of the winning NFL team – is heavy with history. It referred to those in the Thirteen Colonies who fought against British control during the American Revolution, and later declared the United States of America as an independent nation in July 1776.

While in America being described as a ‘patriot’ meant being held in the highest esteem (and to some extent, continues to be so), in 18th century Britain ‘patriot’ – according to lexicographer Samuel Johnson – took on the meaning of “a factious disturber of the government”. A disruptor. 

A touchdown for Trump

‘Patriot’ has also featured in the title of a number of major blockbuster flops. While The Patriot (2000), starring Mel Gibson, takes place during the American Revolution – Patriots Day (2016) featuring Marky Mark Wahlberg, depicts the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.

The culprit, a radicalised man of Chechen descent, committed the act on ‘Patriots Day’ of all things, thus fuelling Trump’s fire and fury.

This all ties into the fact a number of activists and celebs boycotted this year’s game in solidarity with former San Francisco 49er, Colin Kaepernick. The player caused controversy at last year’s game for refusing to stand during the pre-game national anthem, choosing to kneel instead – in protest of police brutality. President Trump accused him of being unpatriotic and called for him to be fired. Since then NFL have introduced a ban on players kneeling, or failing to be ‘patriots’.

Trump must be relieved that order is restored. That the loaded word ‘patriot’ is up in lights, that the Patriots rule supreme, and that the word currently on the minds of all Americans feeds oh-so-nicely into his grand narrative of ‘Making America Great Again’.