Following Politics Through Words

One way to keep up with what’s happening is to follow word trends, According to Merriam-Webster, here are some of the words people have been looking up recently.

Kangaroo Court — Inquiries jumped 11,000% on October 8 after President Trump described the congressional impeachment hearings as “a totally compromised kangaroo court.” Merriam-Webster’s definition is either “a mock court in which the principles of law and justice are disregarded or perverted” or “a court characterized by irresponsible, unauthorized, or irregular status or procedures.” The term’s actual origins are obscure, but what is know is that it does not have much to do with actual kangaroos. The earliest recorded use is in 1841.

Coup — Inquires for this word increased 3,200% on October 2 after President Trump (again) claimed he was the target of a coup d’etat.  Coup, French for “blow” or “stroke”, has two definitions: “a brilliant, sudden, and usually highly successful stroke or act” and as a shortened form of coup d’état (literally “stroke of state”). A coup d’état is “a sudden decisive exercise of force in politics; especially the violent overthrow or alteration of an existing government by a small group.”

Quid pro quo — Searches jumped 5,500% on September 25 after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said President Trump’s call with Ukraine’s president doesn’t need to show a “quid pro quo” in withholding military aid for the president’s actions to be considered wrong. This one dates to the late 16th century, initially meaning one medicine being substituted for another from an apothecary. Soon after, the word took on more a general meaning of substitution. The modern definition is “something given or received for something else,” and “a deal arranging a quid pro quo.” It actually originated from New Latin: “something for something.”

Other words trending recently are (predictably) impeach and dastardly, all going back to you-know-who. For more detail, see https://www.merriam-webster.com/news-trend-watch/trump-sondland-wont-appear-before-kangaroo-court-20191008.

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