The insult was a riposte from Kim Jong Un after US President Donald Trump nicknamed the North Korean leader “Rocket Man” at the UN General Assembly.
The unusual word left many people scratching their heads, and Google searches for dotard went through the roof.
Kim Jong Un calls Trump a mentally deranged U.S. dotard. Searches for ‘dotard’ are high as a kite. https://t.co/HztPoLSjXi
— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) September 21, 2017
So, what does it actually mean? The Twitter-savvy dictionary Merriam-Webster was quick to come to people’s aid.
Merriam-Webster defines dotard as “a person in his or her dotage,” with dotage meaning “a state or period of senile decay marked by decline of mental poise and alertness.”
It stems from the Middle English word doten, which was used to describe an imbecile at the time of its introduction in the 14th century.
The Washington Post’s Tokyo bureau chief, Anna Fifield, though, was quick to point out that the Korean definition of Kim’s barb was “lunatic old man.”
The English version of Kim Jong Un’s fiery statement calls Trump “dotard.” The Korean version says “늙다리미치광이” = lunatic old man pic.twitter.com/LNXWsJLtBB
— Anna Fifield (@annafifield) September 21, 2017
According to Google’s Ngram Viewer, which allows users to track the popularity of words through time, use of the word dotard peaked in English corpus in the early 18th century.
Obviously, this word is slightly dated — and some people were left perplexed:
Looks up definition of “dotard.” pic.twitter.com/kyf5j6J1DB
— Cameron Ridle (@CameronRidle) September 21, 2017
Everyone on Twitter
– OMG HE CALLED TRUMP A #dotard
– Is that a word?
– Wait…is that a real word?
– *looks up word*
– HE IS A DOTARD!
— Tony Posnanski (@tonyposnanski) September 22, 2017
Some people thought Kim came out on top of the exchange:
Mentally deranged US dotard? That’s pretty good actually. I’d definitely rather be referred to as Rocket Man. This round to Kim Jong-un. https://t.co/vgZcmcGDKJ
— Mark Congiusta (@interactivemark) September 21, 2017
Without firing a single shot, Rocket Man defeated #DotardDonnie.
— BrooklynDad_Defiant! (@mmpadellan) September 22, 2017
Others just straight-up agreed with the North Korean leader:
— Simar (@sahluwal) September 22, 2017
Our “President*” is such a total #dotard, he’s got me agreeing w/ a complete maniac’s definition of him
& this nut wants 2 drop a nuke on me
— Edan Clay (@EdanClay) September 22, 2017