So Donald Trump is being hailed in some quarters as “presidential” for his address to Congress last night. And fair enough. Though there didn’t seem to be much substance to it, his tone was noticeably more measured than any of his public appearances to date. Not that that was particularly hard mind you. When you think about it though, describing his as presidential seems like something of a back-handed compliment, and at best damning him with faint praise. The word presidential means like or related to a president, so isn’t that the least that would be expected of him? Surely he should be presidential by default? But I understand people being pleasantly surprised. Regardless of whether you agree with his policies or not, it’s hard to deny that he’s had a very direct, blunt style, in contrast to his predecessors.
Reading about him made me think about his surname, and wonder if anyone in his campaign considered playing up the associations of the word trump with victory. You can have a trump card, or trump someone by beating them. And the word is very closely related to the word triumph, of course.
But perhaps someone in his entourage did think of the association, but then considered the other, slightly older meaning of the word: to fabricate or deceive. It’s not used in that sense so much anymore, except in the phrase trumped-up charges (how many newspaper sub-editors dream of getting a chance to use that as a pun?) And perhaps they did a little more research, and realised that for many English people, trump is a slang word with a meaning you really don’t want to be associated with.
He does like to emblazon his name on things though, or at least he did before becoming president, and I suspect that the craving for recognition that suggests overrides any consideration of what his name might mean. I think he wants to have his name associated with success so much that he never really cared about any pre-existing connotations to the name. Regardless of what his name was, I suspect he’d desperately want you to associate it with success. At least he’s lucky in that Trump Tower has a nice ring to it. What about President Trump? Time will tell, but let’s just say I don’t see it being remembered with fondness.