During the presidential campaign, Trump said it was a great “honer” to win a February 2016 debate. So Merriam-Webster defined that word as “one that hones.”
When Trump called Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) a “leightweight chocker,” the dictionary mocked him by trying to define the two misspelled words. For “leightweight,” Merriam-Webster said, “We have no. idea.” For “chocker,” — well, how do you define “nope”?
Merriam-Webster has gained online fame for trolling Trump (as a candidate and as president). Its use of wit and humor has earned it nearly half a million followers — up from about 180,000 when its social-media strategy was confined to a “Word of the Day” tweet in the morning and a quiz in the afternoon. Now, Trump-trolling tweets immediately go viral, including the most recent one in response to the president’s confusing midnight tweet: “Despite the constant negative press covfefe”
Whoever was handling Merriam-Webster’s Twitter account apparently woke up in the wee hours of Wednesday and checked Twitter. This time, though, the dictionary didn’t jab at Trump. No correction of the confusing word. No definition of “huh” or “nope.”
Its response was, essentially, no response.
Regrets checking Twitter.
Goes back to bed.
— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) May 31, 2017
In an email to The Washington Post, Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster’s editor at large, said “covfefe” was a typographical error, but people still turned to the dictionary to look up the definition.
“We don’t typically collect evidence for typos,” Sokolowski said. “It’s more helpful to give spelling suggestions for similarly spelled words as an answer in our online dictionary (for example, looking up tomorrow will bring up a suggestion for tomorrow). Looking something up in the dictionary is evidence of curiosity, and there was certainly a lot of curiosity about covfefe.”
Meghan Lunghi, a spokeswoman for Merriam-Webster, confirmed that the tweet, sent about an hour after Trump’s, was in response to “covfefe.”
Asked whether it was part of Merriam-Webster’s social-media strategy of using humor and personality on Twitter, Lunghi said: “Twitter is a medium that emphasizes wit and speed but also one that gives unusual importance to word choice and spelling. Because a limited number of characters can be used, the language of Twitter is both concentrated and exaggerated.”
Merriam-Webster has changed its social-media strategy so that its online persona reflects the quirky and geeky personality of its staff, Lisa Schneider, chief digital officer and publisher, told The Post in December.
That appears to have paid off. Almost every tweet trolling Trump and his aides gets shared thousands of times.
The post defining “feminism,” tweeted after White House counsel Kellyanne Conway said she couldn’t identify with it because it’s too anti-male and pro-abortion, was retweeted 18,000 times.
The tweet about “fact,” posted after Conway conjured the phrase “alternative facts,” was retweeted 49,000 times. In another tweet about “alternative facts,” Merriam-Webster wrote of “whispers into the void,” conveying a sense of frustration in trying to explain what a “fact” is. That was retweeted 26,000 times.
The most recent one in response to “covfefe” has been retweeted 74,000 times as of Wednesday afternoon.
Surprisingly, Merriam-Webster said “covfefe” wasn’t Wednesday’s word of the day.