Grammar

‘Dotard’ Remark Reintroduced a Centuries-Old Word

If you’re like many people, you never heard of the word ‘dotard’ until it was used by a dictator to insult President Donald Trump.

You could almost hear the pages of dictionaries everywhere rustling as people looked up the word dotard last week.

The moment occurred after President Donald Trump referred to North Korea’s Kim Jong-un as “Rocket Man” and threatened to “totally destroy” that country.

It’s worth pointing out, since this is a grammar post, that “totally destroy” is redundant. Destroy means to do away with completely.

In any case, it was in response to Trump’s remarks the United Nations General Assembly that Kim called Trump “a mentally deranged U.S. dotard.”

The word, according to the Online Etymological Dictionary, originated in the 14th century and meant “imbecile.” That’s another word we don’t hear much anymore, aside from the occasional Three Stooges rerun.

You may well be asking how a North Korean could have come up with such a rare English word. It turns out that this was the result of the translation of Kim’s actual Korean words.

But still, it’s interesting that a word like dotard would have been what resulted from that translation. The New York Times pointed out that the word Kim actually used was the Korean neukdari, which it calls “a common derogatory term for an old person.”

It was funny to me to see how many people were asking, “What did he call Trump?” as if they’d never heard of such a word.

What will be interesting is whether the word’s usage continues or whether it returns to its relative obscurity.

Given the current political climate, I’m not sure that I’d expect it to completely disappear any time soon.

If we’re lucky, though, the conflict between the two leaders will only be played out in verbal barbs rather than anything stronger.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 27 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.