Trump criticized the North Korean leader in his United Nations General Assembly speech earlier this week, calling him “Rocket Man” and threatening to annihilate the insular nation. Kim Jong-un fired back last night, labeling the president a “frightened dog,” “mentally deranged,” and a “dotard.”
In response, searches for the latter term hit an instant high, and Merriam-Webster, already a trusted resource during tumultuous and confusing times, was there to meet demand. Though the dictionary frequently tweets trending terms and topics, rarely has it called search volume “high as a kite.”
📈 Kim Jong Un calls Trump a mentally deranged U.S. dotard. Searches for 'dotard' are high as a kite. https://t.co/HztPoLSjXi
— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) September 21, 2017
Though “dotard” literally just refers to someone “in his or her dotage,” the term has everyone bickering over its true provenance.
It's pronounced d'oh turd right?
— Maribel’s silly sidekick per RSO (@frenchcori) September 22, 2017
— Mary Birdsong (@marybirdsong) September 22, 2017
Jokes aside, there is something of an etymological history to dig through here; Merriam-Webster notes the term’s original meaning was more in line with “imbecile” when it was introduced seven centuries ago.
America has collectively learned a new word regardless, but all this debate presumes that Kim Jong-un’s letter was accurately translated to English in the first place. One Twitter user suggests that a more accurate gloss of the insult hurled at Trump is “old beast lunatic,” which sounds like a little-known addition to the Wu-Tang Clan more than anything else.
The Korean original statement said "늙다리 미치광이," which means old beast lunatic — which was translated into "dotard." https://t.co/2uQ0Xsxe2X
— Jihye Lee 이지혜 (@TheJihyeLee) September 21, 2017
Not since “covfefe” has the nation taken such a vested interest in lexicography. Maybe next, we can all race to learn to read Korean.