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Word of the Week: ‘trump’

 

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

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Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s the Trump balloon.

Londoners may have spotted the baby blimp, let loose by protesters after the US president touched down for his official UK state visit on Monday.

As the world follows his every move, the word ‘blimp’ trends on Google, and protesters come up with more ingeniously creative ways of expressing their anger at his arrival (such as a £20,000 model of Trump tweeting from a golden toilet) – we decided it was high time to get to the bottom of the word ‘trump’ once and for all.

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What is the meaning of ‘trump’?

As a noun, ‘trump’ is defined as: “a card that belongs to the group of cards that has been chosen to have the highest value in a particular game”.

Originating in the 1520s, it was believed that ‘trump’ in this sense of the meaning derived from the word ‘triumph’ (meaning “a great victory or achievement”) – it is also the name of a prominent 16th century card game referenced in Shakespeare’s plays.

In its verb form, it refers to being “better than, or have more importance or power than another person or thing”.

And finally, in business English the phrase ‘to come up trumps’ points to “an unexpectedly good result”.

These are all looking extremely good for president Trump’s ego so far, but what about the rather unique British definition of the word?  Our British readers would no doubt contest that ‘trump’ joins the ranks of delicately termed slang words for breaking wind. 

That particular definition likely stems from the Old French, 14th century word: ‘Trompe’ meaning “a long, tube-like musical wind instrument”.

Aptronyms

The definitions of ‘trump’ do seem to be curiously well-suited to the 45th president of the US. This occurrence is defined as an ‘aptronym’ – when a person’s name is amusingly well matched to its owner and their occupation. 

Other such high-profile aptronym owners include Usain Bolt, the fastest runner in the world, William Wordsworth, the romantic poet or, a personal favourite, Thomas Crapper, the man who invented the toilet.

Here at Speak, we can only wonder what new meaning Trump’s legacy will inscribe on the current definitions…

To play your ‘trump card’ might refer to winning a Twitter spat with a particularly outrageous insult. 

To ‘come up trumps’ may evolve into political jargon, reserved only for truly shocking electoral results... 

Or perhaps The Donald will commandeer other phrases. Have you ever known anyone to ‘blow their own trump’?

Read more:

Word of the Week: ‘conservative’

Word of the Week: ‘milkshake’

 
Roisin McCormack