Kim Jong-un called Trump a ‘dotard’
How Harsh Is That Burn?
WHEN President Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea and mocked its leader, Kim Jong-un, as “Rocket Man” in a speech on Tuesday at the United Nations General Assembly, the rhetorical retaliation from Pyongyang was inevitable.
That Mr. Kim would call Mr. Trump a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard” on Friday was something more of a surprise. The word “dotard” in particular sent people to the dictionary to look up the arcane put-down.
Merriam-Webster noted that “dotard” comes from “dotage,” a word meaning “a state or period of senile decay marked by decline of mental poise and alertness.” It rhymes with goatherd.
The word has appeared on the pages of The New York Times just 10 times since 1980, always in the paper’s arts coverage. “A favorite theme of the medieval fabliau is the May-December tale of the dotard husband cuckolded by his young wife,” began one book review in 1986.
The word makes a few appearances in Shakespeare. “I speak not like a dotard nor a fool,” Leonato says in “Much Ado About Nothing.”
And Herman Melville used it in a poem about a shark. “Eyes and brains to the dotard lethargic and dull, Pale ravener of horrible meat.”
The Korean word Mr. Kim used for “dotard” was “neukdari,” a common derogatory term for an old person. The connotation is someone who is lazy, useless and demented.
Jean H. Lee, a former Pyongyang bureau chief for The Associated Press, said on Twitter that she had visited the offices of KCNA, the North Korean state news service, and found the agency using very old KoreanEnglish dictionaries for their translations.
The obscurity of “dotard” made it perfect fodder for social media, generating quips about the otherwise unfunny subjects of ballistic missiles, nuclear tests and escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Some commenters, however, pointed out that the use of a funny word should not eclipse the seriousness of tensions in the region.
In a rarity, Mr. Kim was not the butt of the online jokes involving him.Just before 6:30 a.m. on Friday, Mr. Trump resorted to some name-calling of his own. In a tweet, the president called Mr. Kim “obviously a madman who doesn’t mind starving or killing his people.”
North Korea has long insulted foreign politicians, sometimes using ugly sexist and racist language. It previously called President Barack Obama a “monkey” and former President Park Geunhye of South Korea a “prostitute” and a “snake” who should “meet a miserable dog’s death.”
KCNA once called Hillary Clinton, then secretary of state, “by no means intelligent” and said she sometimes “looks like a primary schoolgirl and sometimes a pensioner going shopping.” It said her successor, John Kerry, was a “wolf” with a “hideous lantern jaw.”
Former President George W. Bush, the agency once said, looked like “a chicken soaked in the rain” when he dodged a shoe thrown at him during a news conference in Baghdad in 2008. — NY Times