As Donald Trump sulked within the White Home after the election and refused to concede defeat, many puzzled if he was plotting a “coup”, within the sense of an illegitimate seizure of energy. That is brief for the French coup d’état, actually “blow” or “stroke” of state, nevertheless it took a silent linguistic coup for that to change into its that means.
“Coup” is traced again to the Latin colaphos, for a punch or cuff. Because the phrase itself suggests, a coup d’état was initially (from the 17th century) a decisive motion by a (respectable) authorities, such because the formation of an alliance or a crafty marriage; solely later did it come to imply the seizure of the equipment of state from exterior. All coups, nevertheless, appear to require a component of shock, identical to a coup de foudre (actually, lightning strike) is love at first sight, and a “coup” in brief is commonly trigger for celebration: an admirable, surprising success.
Pleasingly, “coup” additionally has an previous Scottish use, that means: “The act of tilting or shooting rubbish from a cart, wheelbarrow, etc.” On this sense, emptying the White Home of Trump will itself represent a coup to be marked with a lot revelry.
• Steven Poole’s A Phrase for Each Day of the Yr is revealed by Quercus.