The world has been introduced to a fairly uncommon English word recently, dotard. Eric Zorn, in the Tribune, wrote a piece about the word, and I am copying it since it is hard to link to the Tribune these days.
Making ‘dotard’ happen
In one of his bellicose statements Friday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said of President Donald Trump, "I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire."
Along with the fear many of us felt at the unhinged escalation of rhetoric between nuclear-armed, short-tempered narcissists was curiosity.
“Dotard?” What, has Kim been studying obscure English vocabulary words to prepare for college entrance exams?
No. It turns out that the Korean word he used in his statement means “lunatic old man,” but translators at the Korean Central News Agency reached for a crisp though archaic synonym.
The root word is “dote,” one meaning of which is to exhibit a mental decline due to age. “Dotard” is related to “dotage,” referring to that stage of life when faculties diminish, as well as the slangy adjective “dotty.”
Chaucer used “dotard” as a pejorative, as did Shakespeare and J.R.R. Tolkien, but up until Friday’s explosion of explainers online, the word had fallen into disuse — only two appearances in the Tribune in the past 30 years, for example.
One reason might be that it looks like it might be a close cousin to “retard,” now considered an offensive way to refer to people with intellectual disabilities.
It’s not. The two don’t rhyme – “dotard” rhymes with “bird” while “retard” rhymes with “hard” – and their syllabic breaks are different.
“The ‘-ard’ in ‘dotard’ shows up in words like ‘drunkard,’ ‘dullard’ and ‘laggard,’" wrote Wall Street Journal language columnist Ben Zimmer in response to my email query.
The “-tard” in “retard” comes from the Latin “tardus,” meaning sluggish, and is related to the word “tardy.”
Wrote Zimmer, “It just so happens that we associate the ‘-tard’ ending with ‘retard’ thanks to schoolyard insults like ‘retard’ or simply ‘tard,’ leading ‘-tard’ to be used as a combining form for other insults like ‘libtard.’”
Now that we’ve defined our terms and given the word a clean bill of health, we can say that the reign of Trump, whose raging, disconnected utterances are suggestive of a certain senescence, seems perfect for the rebirth of “dotard.”
As you can see, that's the word the translators used for "lunatic old man." I suppose it works, though I think there is more of a senility aspect to dotard. It is not a word I've ever used. Have you?
Very interesting, arnie. I find translation fascinating. Here is how Google Translate did with the Korean:
Michael Kirby, the head of the so-called "report," is a struggling old-fashioned coloring that has left scandal for more than 40 years, and has been unable to marry a same-sex partner until the age of 70.
We can not be in our country where there is a sound idea and a beautiful rhythm of morality. In the western countries, same-sex ladies who are subject to social dispute are ruling anyone's human rights issue.
And here was Language Log's translation:
As for Kirby who took the lead in cooking the "report", he is a disgusting old lecher with a 40-odd-year-long career of homosexuality. He is now over seventy, but he is still anxious to get married to his homosexual partner.
This practice can never be found in the DPRK boasting of the sound mentality and good morals, and homosexuality has become a target of public criticism even in Western countries, too. In fact, it is ridiculous for such gay to sponsor dealing with others' human rights issue.