He has put his mark on buildings and businesses that might last a lifetime. But could he more effectively gain immortality by adding his name to the language?
That is the way, for instance, that Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry did it 200 years ago. He signed a partisan redistricting plan in which one district looked like a salamander, and he gave his name to the despicable, but constitutional, tactic known as a gerrymandering.
Of course, Donald Trump would rather his name be associated with some more positive or elegant term, say Napoleonic.
He might settle, should he lead his Republican Party through a transformation, for something like Jeffersonian or Jacksonian democracy. Maybe Trumponian republicanism. He might like that, if he could be assured, that a term that embodied his name could survive for 200 years or more.
Languages are already adapting to the Trump phenomenon. But he faces a special problem or challenge because his name is already a word, one that conveys several distinct and different meanings. Trump or no-trump are familiar words to those who play in the popular card game, Bridge.
One meaning that Trump would be proud to claim, “a dependable and exemplary person.” Other definitions are not so positive. Early dictionary compiler, Samuel Johnson, defined “trumpery” as “Something fallaciously splendid: something of less value than it seems.”
An older definition of “trump” reported by the Oxford English Dictionary is “To give forth a trumpet-like sound; spec. to break wind audibly (slang or vulgar).”
Trump cannot claim credit for these words. But he is accountable for some new words that are popping up.
One of these is a new Spanish verb that is being used in Mexico, “trumpear.” It is based on the Spanish verb “trompear,” which means “to hit or punch.” One meaning suggested by a Mexican not friendly to Trump is “to hit, to vilify, to polarize, to revile, to terrorize as an electoral strategy.”
In the recent primary season, after losing the Iowa caucuses to Senator Ted Cruz, Trump went ballistic, alleging fraud. Cruz coined a new word to describe Trump’s angry tirade, “Trumpertantrum.”
Trump told Anderson Cooper that he did not have tantrums, but he liked the phrase and might even trademark it.
Predictably, in the spirit of words like Thatcherism, which describes the programs and political philosophy of Margaret Thatcher, the late British prime minister, we are hearing the term “Trumpism.” Its use evokes memories of words like Peronism and Gaullism that are often used to identify the programs and support base of powerful and ego-driven political leaders. While their programs and platform were not deeply rooted in any traditional political philosophy, they nevertheless attracted followers who remained loyal long after the deaths of the movement’s founders.
Likewise, the term Trumpism is taking hold as the term used to describe Trump’s movement and his followers.
What does this Trumpism term mean? It means different things to different people. The New York Times’s Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam wrote that Trumpism is “a celebrity-driven cult of personality, forged by its leader’s unique reality-television appeal.”
Writing in The Atlantic, Dominic Tierney calls it “a brew of nationalist, populist, anti-establishment, anti-‘expert,’ anti-globalist, protectionist, ‘us versus them,’ and most of all, anti-immigrant sentiment. The glue that binds Trumpism together is anti-immigrant sentiment and fear of the ‘other.’”
Political science professor David Tabachnick in “The Hill” writes that Trumpism is characterized by celebrity, nativism, the outsider phenomenon and populism.
Other possible Trump words are trying out: Trumpmentum (an unexpected build up of momentum), Trumpiness (a slippery relationship with the truth), and Trumpervious (severe imperviousness).
A new word that might satisfy Trump would be “Trumpleton,” a word to replace Washington as the name of our nation’s and Trump’s capital.
D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Sundays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV.