World / Politics

Trump calls Comey a 'slime ball,' sparking rush to dictionaries


U.S. President Donald Trump’s denunciation of former FBI Director James Comey as a “slime ball” on Friday triggered a jump of 60,000 percent in look-ups for the word on the website of dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster’s.

The disparaging term was among the top words looked up after Trump struck back over news reports that quoted Comey as harshly critical of the president in a memoir due to be published in the coming week, Merriam-Webster said.

Puzzled readers turned to their dictionaries after Trump wrote on Twitter that Comey was “a weak and untruthful slime ball who was, as time has proven, a terrible Director of the FBI.” Within hours, “slimeball” had become the second-most-sought term on the dictionary website.

Trump fired Comey as head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in May 2017 as Comey probed allegations that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election and that there was possible collusion between Russians and the Trump campaign. Trump has denied any collusion.

Merriam-Webster, a publisher of dictionaries since the 19th century, defines “slimeball” as “a morally repulsive or odious person.” The term became common only in the late 20th century. The rival Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines it as “a disgusting, despicable person.”

On a grammatical note, the publisher said, “Although Trump rendered the word as an open compound (slime ball) in his tweet, the traditional form is as a closed compound (slimeball).”

Friday’s most-searched word was “kakistocracy,” Merriam-Webster said, meaning a system of government run by the worst, least qualified or most unscrupulous citizens. That was likely because John Brennan, who was CIA director under former President Barack Obama, used it in a reply to Trump’s tweet.

“Your kakistocracy is collapsing after its lamentable journey. As the greatest Nation history has known, we have the opportunity to emerge from this nightmare stronger & more committed to ensuring a better life for all Americans, including those you have so tragically deceived,” Brennan wrote.

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