linguistics and lexicography Love English

Learning to talk Trumpish

trumpish
Written by Liz Potter
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Not all political leaders leave their mark on the language. Nixon bequeathed us the ubiquitous -gate suffix, Kennedy’s presidency gave a new meaning to Camelot and Obama has left us Obamacare (at least for the time being). President George W Bush became famous for his mispronounciations and malapropisms, commonly referred to as Bushisms. On this side of the Atlantic we have had Thatcherism and Blairism, along with more recent coinages such as Corbynista and Milifandom which will probably prove ephemeral.

However, I think it is correct to say that no modern politician has sparked such an upsurge of linguistic creativity as President Trump, and we are still only weeks into his term of office.

In addition to being a surname, trump is an ordinary English word with multiple meanings; but so is bush, and neither of the presidents who bore that name gave rise to such a high level of coinages as we are seeing now. The explosion of Trump-related terms may, I think, be down to two factors. The first is that this is a president who is behaving like none of his predecessors, provoking unprecedented quantities of comment and criticism as well as fervent support. The second is that we are living in the age of social media – a world that Trump himself embraced with enthusiasm early on and continues to inhabit on a daily, sometimes hourly basis.

So let’s take a look at some of this Trump-related language. As you would expect, several of the terms relate to politics and economics: the Trump bump is the rise in the US stock market ascribed to Trump’s election, while Trumpflation is the expected increase in inflation as a result of his economic policies. Trumpism is the set of policies associated with the new president, while Trumper and Trumpist are names given to his supporters. Trumpist is also an adjective, as is Trumpish, which serves double duty as a recently coined noun referring to the way the president speaks.

Halloween 2016 perhaps inevitably saw the emergence of Trumpkins, pumpkins carved to look like the then presidential candidate, while Trumpertantrum was apparently coined by a Baltimore housewife way back in February 2016 but given wider currency by presidential hopeful Ted Cruz. The Trumpocalypse, meanwhile, is a humorous term for a catastrophic situation that may be triggered by Trump’s election.

Given the way in which the president’s surname seems to lend itself particularly well to linguistic creativity, as well as the potential for new controversies, I think we can assume that similar coinages will continue to appear. Watch this space.

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Liz Potter

1 Comment

  • One new term that has appeared in the past few days is ‘Trump slump’, the
    potential decline in business, especially tourism, that could result from the
    president’s policies (the quote is from philly.com):

    Some in the travel industry are fearing a ‘Trump Slump’ – a drop in tourism
    following President Trump’s executive order banning citizens from seven
    predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S.

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