Dictionary.com's Tweet About The Trump-Putin Summit Is A Classic Troll
On Monday, an online dictionary seized on President Donald Trump's press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin to remind us all just what makes a "traitor" versus a "patriot." After a press conference in Helsinki where Trump made numerous pro-Russia statements, including downplaying Russia's interference in the 2016 election, Dictionary.com tweeted about the Trump-Putin summit with a not-so-subtle troll of the president.
During the joint press conference, Trump attacked the Mueller probe as well as Hillary Clinton. Trump also said he believed Putin's denial that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. Dictionary.com appeared to wade into the online fray by defining "patriot" and "traitor."
"Patriot: A person who loves, supports, and defends his or her country and its interests with devotion. Traitor: A person who commits treason by betraying his or her country," the dictionary tweeted.
Dictionary.com also shared that "proliferation" and "collusion" were trending on its site as Trump and Putin discussed nuclear proliferation. When Trump said he holds both countries "responsible" for tensions in U.S.-Russian relations, the dictionary shared more relevant definitions. "Responsible means 'answerable or accountable, as for something within one's power, control, or management,'" the dictionary tweeted.
It's part of a long history of not only bringing context to what the president is talking about, but also trolling him when he makes a mistake. Dictionary.com mocked Trump's misspelling of "collusion" in May. "We have not found collussion either. We did, however, find collusion. #ItsInTheDictionary," the tweet read.
Dictionary.com isn't the only online dictionary to get in on the Trump subtweet action. Merriam-Webster has tweeted the definitions and correct spellings of words that Trump's misspelled in his tweets.
These current events-related definition tweets are a part of Merriam-Webster's Trend Watch, according to an interview with Bustle from January. Trend Watch is a data-centric initiative by the dictionary to identify which words are being searched for with the most frequency, which means more people are curious about their definitions.
The first Trend Watch was in 2010 when "austerity" shot to the top of the list when the Greek debt crisis was beginning to make international headlines. "Our mission has always been to tell the truth about words, and for most of our history that meant presenting definitions made by careful research into how the language is actually used," Merriam-Webster editor-at-large Peter Sokolowski told Bustle in January.
Dictionary.com social media manager Lauren Silter told Bustle that their organizations definition tweets were in effort to make current events approachable. "All of our tweets and our content are about being helpful, but also bringing language into a more approachable and relevant light," Silter told Bustle.
For example, in December 2017, a Dictionary.com tweet defining sycophant as it related to Vice President Mike Pence happened after news dropped that Pence praised Trump every 12 seconds for three minutes in a cabinet meeting. "The sycophant tweet was really us observing how other people were reacting to The Washington Post information, and then putting a language lens on it," Sitler said. "They’re interested in it already, so what can we add to the conversation as an authority on the English language?"
Monday's press conference popularized old words as well. Former CIA Director John O. Brennan said Trump's press conference was "nothing short of treasonous" and called Trump's comments "imbecilic." A few hours later, Dictionary.com tweeted: "No stranger to the dictionary.com trending list, John Brennan has done it again. Searches for "imbecilic" are 🚀!"
Their synonym-counterpart got in on the subtweeting action, too. CNN host Jake Tapper tweeted that a national security expert called Trump's press conference "an unmitigated disaster." Thesaurus.com tweeted: "Disaster is one word. Calamity, catastrophe, debacle and fiasco are four other ways to say the same thing. #TrumpPutin #Synonyms http://www.thesaurus.com/browse/disaster"