US President Donald Trump found himself subject to an educational tweet from America’s leading publisher of dictionaries on Monday after he mixed up two homophones.
Trump has spent most of the last few days tweeting about former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and lawyer Sally Yates, the latter of whom Trump dismissed as Acting Attorney General just 11 days into her role. On Monday, the pair testified over allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The President appeared to be glued to his Twitter account as events unfolded, regularly chipping in with his usual points about ‘fake news’ and suchlike. One of his tweets read as below:
“Ask Sally Yates, under oath, if she knows how classified information got into the newspapers soon after she explained it to W.H. Council.”
Trump was actually referring to the White House Counsel, so he confused two words that sound the same but have different meanings. He deleted the tweet and then put out another one to correct the error, but not quickly enough to prevent being schooled by the Twitter team at Merriam-Webster.
counsel: ⚖ a lawyer appointed to advise and represent in legal matters
council: 🙋an assembly or meeting for consultation or discussion
— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) May 8, 2017
Hopefully now, Trump at least understands the difference between a counsel and a council, but the dictionary boffins still appeared to have another less than subtle dig at the President up their sleeves. Shortly after correcting Trump’s tweet, Merriam-Webster tweeted their word of the day as ‘sheesh’, an expression used to convey disappointment, annoyance and surprise – something the team may have found themselves muttering as they educated the President on the correct spelling of the position responsible for his own legal advice.
What can we learn from this amusing exchange? The first lesson is one that Trump never seems to learn, and that’s to check your tweets for typos, misspellings and word confusion. If you’re not sure whether you’ve picked the right word, look it up. You’re on the internet anyway and it isn’t difficult. If you don’t know, you can bet that someone who sees it will, and will delight in correcting you.
The second lesson is one demonstrated by Merriam-Webster – that if something’s happening in politics or popular culture that’s relevant to your brand, getting in there and commenting on it can offer great exposure. The counsel/council tweet has been retweeted almost 5,000 times as of Tuesday morning, which isn’t bad for what could be seen as a dry pair of dictionary definitions if taken out of context.
Businesses can use Twitter to find all sorts of imaginative and creative ways to get their brand in the public eye. And with nearly 29 million Twitter followers, Trump, love him or hate him, certainly has an audience.