Merriam-Webster Seems to Troll the President With Its Word of the Day (Again)
President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen is testifying to Congress on Capitol Hill about some of the president’s alleged illicit financial dealings—and Merriam-Webster’s word of the day managed to convey some timely significance.
The dictionary revealed “grift,” defined as the act of obtaining “(money) illicitly,” as its word of the day on Twitter.
In his opening remarks Wednesday, Cohen described the word in the context of working with Trump as his former personal attorney and fixer.
Cohen accused the president of engaging in criminal activities while in the White House, including using personal checks to reimburse Cohen for hush money payments made to adult film star Stormy Daniels. “The President of the United States thus wrote a personal check for the payment of hush money as part of a criminal scheme to violate campaign finance laws,” Cohen said.
When reached for comment, Lisa Schneider, the chief digital officer and publisher at Merriam-Webster told Fortune: “Today’s word was scheduled before the close of 2018! We wish we had a crystal ball to associate words chosen ahead of time with events that haven’t happened yet, but that is one technology we have yet to crack.”
Schneider added, however, that the “intense focus on politics in the news” is driving what words are trending as people search for words that often come from political stories, and are used by public figures.
Sure enough, the dictionary’s account eventually tweeted that the term “con man” was spiking in trends, thanks to Cohen’s testimony:
In a political moment where language is politicized and often misused, Schneider told Fortune that people’s curiosity to search for the meaning of words shows that they “care about how language is used. It means that words matter.”
It’s not the first time the dictionary has managed to troll the president—intentionally or not. Merriam-Webster has taken to social media and subtweeted the Trump administration on a number of occasions. It has also offered remarks on the political climate.
One day before the 2016 presidential election, Merriam-Webster changed its Twitter banner to the German term “Götterdämmerung,” meaning, “a collapse (as of a society or regime) marked by catastrophic violence and disorder.”
“The concept of justice was at the center of many of our national debates in the past year: racial justice, social justice, criminal justice, economic justice,” Merriam-Webster wrote in a statement last year.