This week’s Bloomberg Businessweek published a long and rather unflattering article on Donald Trump, his life, wealth, and potential for US presidential candidacy. Don’t stop reading here! I have no interest in discussing Mr. Trump except to enlighten you as to my inspiration for this week’s Jargon Genesis. Because in addition to being the last name of a sliver-blonde, thrice-married, combed-over rich guy, the word trump has an interesting and undecided etymology.
Here’s a contextual example. “We hope that in the minds of our consumers, our marketing efforts will trump the bad press about the MSG in our soups.”
Here trump is defined as giving one an advantage, similar to the use of trump during a card game. Speaking of card games, one possible origin of the word trump is a simple mutation of an old card game called “Triumph,” predating the 17th century, which utilized the concept of trump as one of the key strategic elements.
In 1529, it is recorded that a preacher, Hugh Latimer, referenced this game.
"The game that wee wyll playe at, shall bee called the triumphe... Lette therefore euery Christian manne and woman playe at these cardes."
In addition to having terrible spelling, that poor guy was later burned at the stake, likely due to his unorthodox viewpoints.
Another theory is that trump came from Middle English/Old French “trompe,” referring to the trumpet. I prefer this theory, having been in bands my entire life and understanding well the dominating or trumping power of that ridiculously loud instrument.
So, the remaining question is, can Trump trump his opponents in a run for the GOP presidential candidacy? For all our sake’s, I hope not.