Trump Channels Malory

... lexicographer Kory Stamper, who writes and edits dictionary definitions for Merriam-Webster, wants it known that bigly is a real word — even if it’s not the word Trump meant to use.


Stamper offers a brief history of the word bigly. This adverb came into use around 1400 and stuck around for roughly 500 years. It has been used two different ways over the centuries.

The first meaning, says Stamper, was to mean “with great force or violently or strongly.” It appeared in such fashion in the classic King Arthur tale Le Morte d’Arthur, published way back in 1485: “So roughly and so bigly that none might withstand him,” wrote Sir Thomas Malory.

The second meaning, which has been more popular in recent centuries, means “boastfully, haughtily or proudly.” Thomas Hardy put it to use in his 1874 novel Far From the Madding Crowd: “I don’t see that I deserve to be put upon and stormed out for nothing, concluded the small woman bigly.”

So, yes, let's cut taxes with great force, indeed.


jabrwok said...

It's a perfectly cromulent word!

Grim said...

We encounter "biggest" in this sense in the very first chapter of Malory, when Uther sends a warning to a Duke. 'Biggest' here means 'strongest,' and most capable of withstanding violence.

"Then was the king wonderly wroth. And then the king sent him plain word again, and bade him be ready and stuff him and garnish him, for within forty days he would fetch him out of the biggest castle that he hath."

'Stuff him and garnish him' is a play on the way in which meats at great feasts would be stuffed and garnished with additional sorts of foods. The idea is that he should pack his castle with provisions to the utmost, in order to have any hope of surviving the siege that is coming.

E Hines said...

I've never heard Trump say "bigly;" I think that's another NLMSM...misunderstanding. What I have heard him say, several times, is "big league."

Though I'm with TD; we need to cut taxes bigly and with great force. I'll go him one better: we need to cut spending most bigly, as well. Mo debny.

Eric Hines

jaed said...

Yes, when I went and listened to a video where he was allegedly saying "bigly", it sounded more like "big-league".

Tom said...

Yep, I think you guys are right. At the article, Stamper also says Trump is probably saying "big league," but wants us to know that "bigly" is a real word as well.

Interesting stuff, Grim. My copy of the Norton 'La Morte D'Arthur' you recommended arrived this week. It will be a while before I have time to read it, but it looks good.