Monthly Archives: August 2016

Donald Trump and Aesop

Donald Trump’s scurrilous campaign to discredit the U.S. electoral process put us in mind of Aesop — specifically, one of Aesop’s fables, expressed in verse in the Nestlings Press book Aesop, ASAP:

The Fox and the Grapes

A fox in urgent need to dine

Saw grapes suspended from a vine.

He jumped, and jumped, and came so close,

But could not reach them. So, morose

And running quickly out of power,

He griped, “Ah well, those grapes were sour.

They’re hardly worth the effort I

Would have to make to jump that high.”

When labours prove of little use,

Some seize on any weak excuse.

Word Book in Progress

Warren Clements writes:

During the couple of decades I wrote the Word Play column for The Globe and Mail in Toronto, readers would regularly ask when a book was coming out. Circumstances and lethargy ensured that no book came out then, but one is in the works now. I will keep you posted.

Meanwhile, since Donald Trump’s 2012 threat to run for U.S. president has been realized in his 2016 Republican nomination, this seems an opportune time to review the various definitions of trump.

For instance, players of early card games borrowed the word “triumph” and transformed it into “trump” to describe cards in a suit that outranked the other three suits. The expression “turn up trumps,” found in print as early as the 1500s, meant to come up smelling like roses.

Trumpet arrived by way of Old French trompe and its diminutive trompette from Old High German trumpa, which was likely an imitative word, sounding like the noise a trumpet makes. In the mid-1400s, to blow one’s own trumpet meant to tell the public that one had triumphed. For many centuries, another word for a trumpet was a trump. It may be no coincidence that Donald Trump’s every utterance is trumpeted rather than spoken.

Une trompe still means a trumpet in French. The Italian variation on trompe, trombone (meaning big trump), gave us the English name for the trombone. The French tromper, to play the trumpet, also meant to deceive, though no one quite knows why. Thus, trumped-up today means false and possibly malicious, as in trumped-up charges. A trompe l’oeil, welcomed into English from the French, is something that deceives the eye. And se tromper means to make a mistake – for instance, voting for Donald Trump.