Who knew that a tongue-lashing between two world leaders will make us go through dictionary pages frantically to learn new words? As a reply to US President Donald Trump's speech at the UN, North Korea's supreme leader Kim Jong Un released an official statement on September 21 through Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). The statement was pretty much according to people's expectations, with Kim calling Trump "mentally deranged", "rogue", and "gangster". However, there was a tiny exception towards the end.
A specific sentence stood out: "Action is the best option in treating the dotard who, hard of hearing, is uttering only what he wants to say." The statement ended like this; "I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged US dotard with fire."
The new English word 'dotard', which is actually not that new, took the internet by storm, creating trends in social media. It seems political leaders are ensuring our vocabulary keeps flourishing.
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines 'dotard' as a word dating back to the 14th century, which means "a state or period of senile decay marked by decline of mental poise and alertness."
Only, the word was not directly uttered by Kim, who had spoken in Korean. The unusual translation was presented by KCNA as a replacement for the Korean word "늙다리미치광이" ("neulg-dali-michigwang-i"), literally meaning 'old lunatic.' Ironically, Kim's statement warns Trump to choose his words carefully while addressing important people, something that the news agency has followed to boot.
'Dotard' is indeed a strange word to pull out as most of the English-speaking population had no idea of its meaning. After the statement's release, millions around the world have rushed to google it.
Although the word had almost become obsolete in modern usage, it has a record of popping up in the pages of history, much like the elder wand from the Harry Potter series. Shakespeare has used it in many instances, one such example being "Tush, tush, man, never fleer and jest at me. I speak not like a dotard nor a fool," in Much Ado About Nothing, as pointed out by Nathalie Vienne-Guerrin in "Shakespeare's Insults: A Pragmatic Dictionary."
It also appeared in The New York Times, probably for the first time in 1854, when Thomas Hart Benton was described as "an imbecile and a dotard" by Congressman John Pettit. Most recently, 'dotard' appeared there in June, in the Russian opera The Golden Cockerel's review.
This address has left the world in splits, with Twitterati pouring forth memes and hilarious tweets, with #dotard among the topmost trending topics. Check out some of the tweets that will surely tickle your funny bone: