“That’s so fetch!” I say, after watching Mean Girls (2004) for the ten million, twelve hundredth and eleventh time. (I felt a bit like beloved president Jacob Zuma trying to type that number.) I’m reminded that I have no idea where fetch comes from, Gretchen only offers the explanation, “It’s like slang, from England”.
It dawns on me. Like the flickering Stranger Things-esque lightbulb in my bathroom. Buzzing and threatening to pop, sending sparks flying everywhere. FETCH! I get it now! It’s taken me over a decade, but I’ve finally figured out something that was probably more than obvious to most people watching it for the first time.
Fetch. Like, fetching. Attractive or pleasing.
My excitement at this revelation is entirely disproportionate, but it’s been bothering me for over a decade why a simple verb like ‘fetch’ was chosen to be used as an adjective synonymous with cool. It’s a clipping of an already existing adjective that’s been around since the 1880s. And yeah, Urban Dictionary has known its origin for much longer than I have.
But this leads me to an even more astounding word that Donald Trump has introduced in 2017. Covfefe. You have definitely read it by now, and probably debated over the pronunciation as I have. Comedians have been having a ball with this word. My personal favourite is Trevor Noah’s take on the word’s meaning. Not that Trump needs any more attention in the linguistics community, his gestures alone inspire countless articles.
Donald Trump is a walking meme just waiting to reincarnate. Covfefe, like many memes, started with a small, out of context word or phrase that went viral. These tend to demonstrate amazing, often amusing, language use. Think ‘Eyebrows on Fleek’, ‘Damn, Daniel’, ‘Cash Me Ousside’. Their lifespans are limited, covfefe will be long forgotten in a few months, but for now, let’s bask in the glory of its unlimited definitions.
While ‘covfefe’ is just an extremely obscure typo that appeared in one of Mr Trump’s tweets, the internet has not failed to turn it into so much more. There is no obvious root word, there is no official etymology. This new construction has an infinite number of interpretations.
I find this speaks to the influence that social networks have in terms of spreading new language. Also the linguistic creativity Twitter users is mind-blowing and amusing.
While Gretchen from Mean Girls couldn’t make ‘fetch’ happen, Trump definitely made ‘covfefe’ happen.