Happy 1st birthday to ‘covfefe’

Posted on May 31, 2018


Throughout history, many U.S. presidents have become credited with coining or popularising new words still in use today. Theodore Roosevelt was thought to have been among the first to have uttered the term ‘lunatic fringe’, while the verb ‘to sugar coat’ was perhaps first used in a figurative sense by Abraham Lincoln in 1861.

Modern presidents have made up new words too, but often in less glamorous ways that have left a very different legacy. During his time in the White House, George W. Bush became known for his Bushisms, including the claim that he had been ‘misunderestimated’ – a clumsy double negative, but at least you could figure out what he was trying to say.

A year ago today, current president Donald Trump unleashed a new word on the world that had everybody scratching their heads. At 12:06am Washington, DC time, he tweeted:

“Despite the constant negative press covfefe”

That was it, and it stayed there overnight, before Trump deleted and replaced it.


Was there a deep meaning to ‘covfefe’ that only Trump knows, or had he just garbled a tweet and tried to be cool about it? The latter seems much more likely, but it hasn’t stopped people trying to guess what exactly he meant to say and why it came out in such a peculiar way.

One would assume that he meant to type ‘coverage’, but it seems a spectacular typo beyond anything you would normally expect from an autocorrect glitch. Perhaps, being awake and on Twitter after midnight, caffeine had affected Trump and he committed something of a Freudian slip, mangling the words ‘coverage’ and ‘coffee’?

Not surprisingly, the witty folks at Urban Dictionary have come up with plenty of definitions for Trump’s now year-old word. Others speculated that it may mean something in Russian – an idea that Paste Magazine had a bit of fun with.

Overall, even a year on, ‘covfefe’ and what Trump meant by it remains something of a mystery. It was such an oddity though, that Trump continues to be teased about it. To his detractors, the word sums up his poor communication skills and general sloppiness. A CNN article even suggests that it “tells you everything you need to know” about him.

Trump himself has tried to deal with the situation with good humour, even working the word into the recent yanny/laurel debate.

It seems like covfefe shows no signs of going cold – at least not until Trump comes out with something even more ridiculous.

John Murray
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