An obscure word used in Kim Jong-un’s latest tirade against Donald Trump has the world scratching its head and reaching for the dictionary.
After the US president referred to Kim as “Rocket Man” during his maiden address at the UN General Assembly this week, Kim fired back today (Sept. 22) with an even more peculiar insult: dotard.
In a public statement translated into English by North Korean news outlet KCNA, the dictator wrote:
Now that Trump has denied the existence of and insulted me and my country in front of the eyes of the world and made the most ferocious declaration of a war in history that he would destroy the DPRK, we will consider with seriousness exercising of a corresponding, highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history.
Action is the best option in treating the dotard who, hard of hearing, is uttering only what he wants to say.
At the close of the statement, Kim added:
I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire.
As the prospect of war with North Korea loomed, the world collectively wondered: What’s a dotard?
Interest in the word on Google search surged as people scrambled to decipher the meaning of Kim’s insult.
Merriam-Webster defines “dotard” as “a person in his or her dotage,” while “dotage” refers to ”a state or period of senile decay marked by decline of mental poise and alertness.” In short, a dotard is someone who’s senile. It’s pronounced “Dough”-tard, not “Dot”-tard.
According to the Cambridge History of the English Language, it originates from the medieval-era word “doten,” which meant “to be foolish, to rave.”
Culture blog Inverse notes that according to Google’s Ngram tool, which tracks a word’s popularity dating back to the 1500s, the word “dotard” peaked in the early 19th century.
Kim’s statement was translated from Korean, of course, so it’s possible that the word “dotard” doesn’t quite capture what he meant to convey. Entering the original Korean term, 늙다리 미치광이, into Google Translate yields “old man lunatic.” Others have suggested “old beast lunatic” as another translation.
Twitter was quick to take notice of Kim’s linguistic chops.