Politics & Government

Team Trump’s greatest enemy on Twitter? A dictionary.

Merriam-Webster’s Twitter account has enjoyed a surge in popularity recently as it has waded into political territory.
Merriam-Webster’s Twitter account has enjoyed a surge in popularity recently as it has waded into political territory. AP

For seemingly every scandal, every slip-up and every verbal gaffe from President Donald Trump and his administration, one Twitter account has mercilessly commented on them all, drawing praise from the president’s critics.

Merriam-Webster, one of the oldest dictionaries in the United States, regularly tweets about words of the day, facts and observations on language, lookup trends and wordplay, according to its bio.

But it has also become a surprising source of political snark against the controversial president — and that’s made the dictionary increasingly popular/

Back before Trump was elected, Merriam-Webster’s Twitter account started generating interest online as it live-tweeted the presidential debates, clarifying Trump’s use of the phrases “big league” and “bad hombres” and tweeting the definition of “locker room talk,” seemingly in reference to Trump’s defense of comments he made in which he bragged about sexually harassing women.

After Trump won the Nov. 8 election, the dictionary noted that the most popular lookups on its website all seemed to be of a depressing nature.

But that was just the beginning of Merriam-Webster’s subtweets against Trump’s team. In late November, the dictionary warned that “fascism” was likely to be named its word of the year due to the high number of lookups for it, although it later announced that “surreal” had edged “fascism” out, per The Guardian.

Merriam-Webster has also not hesitated to troll Trump for misspellings in his tweets.

On Inauguration Day on Jan. 20, the dictionary seemed to take another shot at Trump, simply tweeting out the word “WELP” and its definition.

It also changed the background photo on its Twitter profile to include the definition of a word that meant the “collapse (as of society or a regime) marked by catastrophic violence or disorder.”

A day later, the publication tweeted out the difference between “historical” and “historic,” which many interpreted as a shot at Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who had referred to the inauguration as “historical.”

It also noted that “feminism” was trending in the midst of the Women’s March on Washington.

And from there, Merriam-Webster has consistently injected grammar and spelling into politics. When White House aide Kellyanne Conway used the term “alternative facts” to defend press secretary Sean Spicer’s statements on the inauguration crowd size, the dictionary fired back.

And when Trump himself said that he received a standing ovation while speaking at the headquarters of the CIA, Merriam-Webster tweeted out the definition of “claquer,” or one who is paid to applaud.

As Trump has made his first moves as president, the dictionary noted whenever they seemed to cause a spike in lookups, including “rescind,” which seemed to coincide with Trump’s order halting Obama-era protections for transgender students. Other terms that were also tweeted out included “anti-Semitism,” “holocaust,” “vet” and “demonstrator.”

On Feb. 7, the dictionary also made a point of noting that it was reintroducing a word into its lexicon after discontinuing it. The word, “snollygoster,” refers to a “shrewd and unprincipled person, especially an unprincipled politician.”

On Thursday, the dictionary tweeted out the definition of “military” in response to Spicer’s defense of Trump’s comments that his efforts to remove illegal immigrants would be a “military operation,” per The Hill. Spicer said Trump was referring to the precision with which the operation would be carried out.

Merriam-Webster’s robust Twitter presence has paid off for the dictionary, earning it coverage from USA Today, Forbes, the Boston Globe, NPR and Yahoo News, among others. According to Twitter Counter, the account has attracted more than 110,000 new followers in the past month, a growth of nearly 50 percent.

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