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May I have a word: Another way to say ‘trump’

The five-letter word has become a four-letter one for many who have vowed never again to utter the 45th president’s name.

Anti-Trump protesters drive through Guilford, Maine.Erin Clark/Globe Staff

Last time, I asked you for a word to replace the now-fraught term trump­­­­, as in “Love trumps hate.” Many readers agreed that trump has come to carry more baggage than an apolitical word should, and a few of them offered work-arounds such as the T-word and t***p to avoid naming He Who Must Not Be Named.

I received a handful of new coinages or portmanteaus, such as trouncesends (or trounce-sends), from Ruth Sessions, of Hudson, N.H.; vansquish, from Deborah Vatcher, of Plainville; and trump-l’oreille, from Cynthia Smith. Linda Swicker, of Ipswich, wrote: “A friend thought that no part of trump should be contained in the new word, but I was thinking exump might work as a replacement.”


What I heard loud and clear from nearly all of the rest of ye, though, was that we don’t need a new word, because perfectly good synonyms for trump already exist. Kim Sampson, of Melrose, shared three of them: conquer, trounce, and the unembellished vanquish. Jeanie Kelley, of Abington, and Geoff Patton, of Ashland, both suggested the verb best. Maia Farish, of Providence, R.I., offered up eclipse. Leslee Wagner, of Swarthmore, Pa., proposed numb, as in “Love numbs hate.” And Annie Goodrich, of Brookline, wrote: “‘Love tops hate.’ Short, simple, retains the t!”

I was touched when Chris Waddell, of Hanson, sent me this on Martin Luther King Jr. Day: “Dr. King would have used overcome.” William Falk, of Newton, wrote: “You said that the synonym should not trigger political associations. But in the African Luo language group I found the term obam, which means ‘to bend or lean.’ One could say, for example, ‘Hope obams despair.’” Bill, swapping out one ex-president for his predecessor won’t help us unify our nation. Sharon Curhan, of Lincoln, wrote: “My suggestion is Biden. I guess this was the choice of some 81 million other people, too.” Sharon wins made-me-laugh bragging rights this time.


S words were popular: Skye Gibson proposed surmount and Susan Bannister, of York, Maine, surpasses. And Michael Albert, of Cambridge; Steven Colan, of Ipswich; Marie Hoffman, of Newburyport, and E.J. Breed, of Harvard, all offered up supersede. E.J. added: “I can’t contribute an alternative to the use of the word trump in card games, because I am not a regular player of card games.” Which brings up a potential objection to all of the words above — that they don’t suit (pun!) some of the purposes to which trump is put.

Helen Andrews, of Framingham, reported: “Avid family game players in Philadelphia substituted triumph for trump a couple of years ago. It seems to convey the appropriate reaction when trick taking.”

Others too spoke up for triumph. Kathleen Drane, of Plymouth, proposed it, observing that “trump was an alteration of triumph in the 16th century.” Robin Lütjohann, of Allston, also invoked etymology in making an eloquent argument for this choice. Stephen Shestakofsky, of Belmont, wrote: “Why not just go back to its early roots and use triumph in lieu of trump. Granted, when I hear trump nowadays I can only think of the French verb tromper (‘to deceive’), but that’s getting political.”

Rick Woods, of Yarmouth Port, it seems to me, went triumph one better. He wrote: “What to do about trump has for several years now been a challenge for people who enjoy the card game whist. [The same, of course, goes for bridge players.] Basically, we ignore the political meaning and keep using the term as it has existed for centuries. But thump would work just as well and avoid politics. So there you go: ‘Hearts are thumps’!” And love thumps hate. Rick takes the bragging rights this time.


Now let’s help Anne Bernays, of Cambridge, find this word: “What about the thing a dog does when it goes around and around and around before it lies down? What is it doing?” Send your ideas to me at Barbara.Wallraff@globe.com by noon on Friday, Feb. 4, and kindly include where you live.

Barbara Wallraff is a writer who lives in Cambridge, Mass., and London.