Speed Reads

words words words

Thanks to Trump, lots more Americans now know what 'kleptocracy' means

The Trump administration is making American vocabulary great again, apparently. After President Trump's brief hire of Anthony Scaramucci sent Americans to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary last week to learn about an Italian commedia dell'arte character featured in the Queen song "Bohemian Rhapsody," on Monday the top word looked up at the dictionary site was "kleptocracy," thanks, Merriam-Webster says, to an interview in The Guardian in which former U.S. Office of Government Ethics chief Walter Shaub used the word to describe Trump's mixture of government business and his own private businesses.

Shaub, who resigned last month after his warnings to the White House about Trump and his family repeatedly landed on deaf ears, specifically brought up Trump's liberal and conspicuous use of his own Trump properties and his long-term lease of the historic Old Post Office Building. "The fact that we're having to ask questions about whether he's intentionally using the presidency for profit is bad enough because the appearance itself undermines confidence in government," Shaub told The Guardian. "It certainly risks people starting to refer to us as a kleptocracy. That's a term people throw around fairly freely when they're talking about Russia, fairly or unfairly, and we run the risk of getting branded the same way. America really should stand for more than that."

Shaub has already tried to give Trump his own vocabulary lesson, defining the word "swamp" for the president, but we'll let Merriam-Webster take this one:

Kleptocracy is one of a large number of words in English which are formed by adding -cracy, which is a noun combining form that may be traced to the Greek word for "strength," kratos. The initial portion of the word comes from the Greek kleptein ("to steal"), and serves as the basis for a handful of other words in English, most of which have to do with various kinds of theft (such as biblioklept, "one who steals books"). We define kleptocracy as "government by those who seek chiefly status and personal gain at the expense of the governed; also: a particular government of this kind." The word appears to have entered our language in the early 19th century. [Merriam-Webster]

You can go to the dictionary to learn more about other words people are looking up this week in Trump's America, including "implode," "ballistic," "transgender," and "beleaguer." Don't say Trump never did anything for you.