There’s so much in a name. I’ve written before about the ways names evolved alongside manners or occupations, resulting in families of Tanners, Archers, Barbers, Fowlers and the like. In what may be one of the most amusing current surnames on everyone’s lips is, sorry to say, Trump.
Trump is well known as a card-playing term, designating any of a particular suit of cards. Its origin in this sense seems to be related to the word “triumph” which was the name of a card game for a while in Old Europe.
But the far more interesting etymology, and seemingly more appropriate meaning to this moment in American politics is related to deceit. The following information was found at www.etymologyonline.com
TRUMP: “fabricate, devise,” 1690s, from trump “deceive, cheat” (1510s), from Middle English trumpen (late 14c.), from Old French tromper “to deceive,” of uncertain origin. Apparently from se tromper de “to mock,” from Old French tromper “to blow a trumpet.” Brachet explains this as “to play the horn, alluding to quacks and mountebanks, who attracted the public by blowing a horn, and then cheated them into buying ….” The Hindley Old French dictionary has baillier la trompe “blow the trumpet” as “act the fool,” and Donkin connects it rather to trombe “waterspout,” on the notion of turning (someone) around. Connection with triumph also has been proposed. Related: Trumped; trumping. Trumped up “false, concocted” first recorded 1728.
I’ll confess to loving the “quacks and mountebanks” reference. Donald Trump is a master image swindler, changing his politics as readily as he changes his clothes. He has all but admitted this publicly, stating at the first Republican debate that of course he’s given money to Democrats and Republicans alike, after all he’s “a businessman.” In other words, he’s a man who buys his loyalty and then wields it like a club.
For a while Trump palled around with Bill Clinton, quite the pair if you ask me. The two were golfing buddies and by all accounts spent considerable time comparing their putts, or is it putz? The combination of these two master story-tellers must be the stuff of legend. Neither, it seems, can be trusted to tell the truth, and if placed under pressure the lies get even larger. I’ll never forget the sanctimonious, finger-wagging Bill Clinton chiding “that woman, Monica Lewinsky” from a lectern at the White House as he attempted to deflect media attention away from his peccadilloes through innuendo.
Now we have Trump, who spends his time deflecting media attention by playing an American 21st Century version of Il Duce, a posing, arrogant, crude braggart “acting the fool” in his own “Baillier la trompa” routine. He certainly spends enough time blowing his own horn, and one can only hope he runs out of air soon.
Of course, that leaves America with the rest of the Republican crew of aspirants, and to call them a rogue’s gallery is too soft an assignation. I see a honking gaggle of geese, an aggressive gang of posturing barnyard bullies, none of whom actually deserves more than a moment’s passing notice. That totalitarian-inclined Trump leads the pack, and pulls the media along by the nose, merely speaks to the sorry depths to which America’s “Grand Old Party” has sunk. Pity the poor Republican voter, reduced to little more than shoveling manure out of the barn.