Last Word: Misused Terms From Trump’s Twitter

WATCH: President Trump Drives Searches For “Tapp,” “Council,” And Other Spelling Blunders

Presidential word mangling

When it comes to Twitter accounts, there are few that are as closely watched around the world as that of President Donald Trump. With the advent of Twitter, and in particular our current president’s voracious appetite for sharing his every thought, there has come an ability for the world to evaluate something rarely put on display by politicians: their spelling.

Trump’s grammar gaffes often make headlines, from the now infamous “covfefe” (God bless you) to his inaugural “honer” of serving our country. But, here at Dictionary.com, we’ve seen that the president is not merely making grammarians cringe. His Twitter typos are making Americans examine what they know about words and spelling.

When we examined search data for misspelled words, comparing it to the dates of many of the president’s spelling gaffes, a pattern emerged. Each misspelling sparks a surge in searches on site, specifically searches for that exact configuration of letters, as Americans attempt to spellcheck both the president and themselves.

Is what they’re seeing in front of them wrong? Or, are they misremembering the words they learned in grammar school? We know that people do not always search for words on Dictionary.com because they don’t know the meaning or the spelling. Often, it’s a way to confirm a gut reaction or to provide a credible source to share with others who have doubt. Although we can’t ascribe any one motive to every search for words misspelled by the president, the frequency with which we see Dictionary.com links tweeted “at” the president’s Twitter profile in the wake of a presidential typo would indicate at least a portion of searchers are motivated by the latter.

So, what kind of word mangling has created the most curiosity? Here’s a look at some of the president’s typos and the search trends that resulted.

“I am honered to serve you, the great American People, as your 45th President of the United States.”

In a tweet posted the day after his inauguration in January, 2017, which was then swiftly deleted, the president repeated a gaffe seen during the campaign, when he announced he’d won a February debate and called it a “great honer.” The misspelling sent searches for both terms surging, with searches for “honered” climbing 3,850% over the previous week and searches for “honer” reflecting a slightly more modest 1,271% increase.

How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!

Searches to determine whether it’s acceptable to use two ps in the word tap climbed by 46,300% after this March 4, 2017 accusation against former President Obama.

Despite the constant negative press covfefe.

The best known of all of President Trump’s Twitter gaffes was posted in the wee hours of May 31, 2017, where it remained for some time, stumping people around the globe. Did he mean “coverage”? Or, was he perhaps in desperate need of some coffee to keep him awake? Because the president’s true meaning is not understood, it’s impossible to classify “covfefe” as a true misspelling. Nonetheless, it did send searches for this never-before-seen “word” skyrocketing, earning its place on Dictionary.com’s list of the words of 2017.

Ask Sally Yates, under oath, if she knows how classified information got into the newspapers soon after she explained it to W.H. Council.

Sometimes, the president’s tweets make headlines not for misspellings but for usage of the incorrect homophone, as is the case in this tweet from May 8, 2017. The tweet was quickly replaced with another that correctly referred to the White House counsel, or legal advisor. The replacement didn’t happen quickly enough to prevent eagle-eyed Twitter users from double-checking the president’s usage. Searches for council were up 78% that day.

Our great country has been divided for decades. Sometimes you need protest in order to heel, & we will heel, & be stronger than ever before!

Another homophone mix-up and another quickly deleted tweet (replaced later that same day) showed up in the middle of the afternoon on August 17, 2017, as the president encouraged heeling rather than healing for the country. Searchers followed suit. Soon, queries for the word that usually refers to the back part of the foot (or the command used for dogs when you want them to stay in line) was up more than 761%.

…the entire World WAS laughing and taking advantage of us. People like liddle’ Bob Corker have set the U.S. way back. Now we move forward!

Well known for tweeting insults at his adversaries, the president called Senator Bob Corker to task in October of 2017 with a diminutive term that’s both misspelled and paired with an errant apostrophe. Queries on the Dictionary.com site, on the other hand, were anything but “little,” with searches for the misspelling up 4,900%.

Alex Baldwin, whose dieing mediocre career was saved by his terrible impersonation of me on SNL, now says playing me was agony. Alex, it was agony for those who were forced to watch. Bring back Darrell Hammond, funnier and a far greater talent!

An attack on actor Alec Baldwin—who plays the president on Saturday Night Live—appeared and disappeared on March 2 of 2018, but not before Twitter users noticed that the actor had been misidentified as “Alex,” and the word “dieing” had been misspelled. The president retweeted the complaint later with the correct name and the word dying, but it didn’t stop search traffic for “dieing” from climbing 1,279%.

No matter the number of misspellings coming from the White House, the number of people turning to Dictionary.com for the final word on proper spelling leads us to conclude that the art of orthography may be tarnished, but it still retains its value. Spelling still matters, people!

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