As Donald Trump sulked in the White House after the election and refused to concede defeat, many wondering if he was plotting a “coup,” in the sense of an illegitimate takeover. It’s short for French Rebellion, literally “coup” or “coup”, but it took a silent linguistic coup for that to become meaningful.
“Coup” dates back to Latin cuff, for a punch or an armband. As the expression itself suggests, a Rebellion was originally (from the 17th century) a decisive action of a (legitimate) government, such as forming an alliance or a crafty marriage; It was only later that it meant the taking of the state apparatus from outside. All coups, however, seem to require an element of surprise, just like a love at first sight (literally, love at first sight) is love at first sight, and a “coup” in short is often a cause for celebration: an admirable and unexpected success.
Fortunately, ‘blow’ also has an old Scottish usage, meaning: ‘The tipping or pulling of rubbish from a cart, wheelbarrow, etc.’ In this sense, emptying the Trump White House will in itself be a coup marked by much celebration.
• A word for each day of the year by Steven Poole is published by Quercus.