(Adds most-searched term, ‘kakistocracy,’ paragraphs 7-8)
By Ian Simpson
WASHINGTON, April 13 (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump’s denunciation of former FBI Director James Comey as a “slime ball” on Friday triggered a 60,000 percent jump in look-ups for the word on Merriam-Webster’s website, the dictionary publisher said.
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 next week, Merriam-Webster said in a statement.
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 possible collusion between Russians and the Trump campaign. Trump has denied any collusion.
Merriam-Webster, a Springfield, Massachusetts, 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.
On a grammatical note, it 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.
Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Dan Grebler