Why is everybody talking about North Korea and the word 'dotard'?

Here's why the entire internet is looking up this obscure word.

North Korea may have meant to intimidate the U.S. with its statement this week against President Donald Trump.

Instead, it seems to have revived a long-out-of-use Shakespearean insult: dotard

On Friday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un released a statement vowing he would “surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U. S. dotard with fire.” It was a response to President Trump's promise, during a U.N. speech last week, to "totally destroy" North Korea if it attacked America or its allies. 

Kim's remark set off an internet-wide debate about the word "dotard," what it means, where it comes from, and how it's pronounced. 

And according to Merriam-Webster (the folks behind the famous dictionary of the same name, of course), internet searches for the term are "high as a kite."

The definition

The dictionary says the word means "imbecile," and dates back to the 14th century.

Watch the video below for a pronunciation (as you can hear, it's "dōdərd," not "dough tard," as one YouTube commenter described it):

Originating in Middle English (an earlier model of the English we speak today), it refers to "a person in his or her dotage" – or "a state or period of senile decay marked by decline of mental poise and alertness."

The word was used by literary icons like Geoffrey Chaucer (in The Canterbury Tales) and William Shakespeare, in plays such as The Merchant of Venice and King Lear, the Washington Post notes

So why would North Korea use an outdated term from the British Isles to taunt Trump?

They probably just need to update their library

The answer may be found in a tweet from The Associated Press reporter Jean H. Lee, who opened the news organization's North Korea bureau in 2012:

"I’ve been inside #KCNA’s newsroom," she wrote Thursday, referring to the country's state-run media agency. "They’re using very old Korean-English dictionaries."

And as it's been widely pointed out, Kim probably didn't intend to use the word at all. What he said in Korean actually translates to "old beast lunatic" (or "lunatic old man," according to the Washington Post).

So, there you have it: an English lesson brought to you by none other than North Korea. 

This story is part of our Best of the Web section – which is just cool stuff we find online and want to share with you.

Next Up

Ricky Eloy Ramirez

Charges: TX man was acting paranoid before he shot man in MN hotel

He's accused of shooting the victim six times, killing him.

Meeker County Sheriff's Office

Suspect flees deputies on scooter, pickup truck before being Tasered

He was eventually tased while in a third vehicle, and arrested.

bonfire burning restrictions fire

7 counties added to Minnesota DNR's campfire burning ban

This comes amid the ongoing drought that's impacting the entire state.

storm damage

Storm damage in northern MN; severe weather threat through Wednesday

Storms could pack a punch again Tuesday and especially Wednesday.

oscar ortiz = moorhead manhunt

Moorhead police searching for 'armed and dangerous' murder suspect

The Moorhead PD is asking property owners to check their surveillance equipment for the suspect.

Michael Pineda

Twins' trade targets raise their value in win over Tigers

Michael Pineda pitched well but Taylor Rogers left the game with an injury.

Flickr - state capitol minneosta - Ken Lund

Criminal charges possible for woman who drove on State Capitol grounds

She drove on the sidewalk and lawn, and at one point waved a large "Trump 2020" flag out the window.


Dictionary.com added over 300 new words, like 'alt-right' and 'hangry'

From "cold brew" to "Dad bod," these are Dictionary.com's new words.

'Bad Lip Reading' reveals the true oath of office

They've studied the video of Inauguration Day and deciphered what was really said

Why is everyone talking about Bitcoin?

The cryptocurrency has been making headlines this week.

WTH is NSEERS and why are people talking about it?

NSEERS was used post-9/11 to track male visitors from certain countries – mainly in the Middle East.

Dictionary.com's Word of the Year is 'complicit'

So who does it say has been complicit this year?