The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Donald Trump’s made-up coat-of-arms reveals his electoral strategy: Never concede

Donald Trump holds a media event on the Menie estate in spring 2010, where he was proposing a golf resort near Aberdeen, Scotland.  (Reuters/David Moir/File Photo)

Donald Trump was certainly not the first American child of immigrants to try to cobble together a more interesting backstory once he got to Europe.

When the real estate developer announced plans for a golf resort in Aberdeen, Scotland, he began promoting the project with a coat-of-arms that someone in the Trump Organization designed: a shield with three chevrons and two stars, with a helmet above the shield and a crest of a lion waving a flag (a remarkable feat for an animal that lacks opposable thumbs). I know how to describe the various parts of the crest because Scotland takes its coats-of-arms very seriously. So seriously that one must register a coat-of-arms (which applies only to an individual, not a family), and the cost of registration increases as you add various elements (like that helmet). Trump was using an unauthorized coat-of-arms, and Scotland got mad.

Trump receives his first major newspaper endorsement, and he has Sheldon Adelson to thank

Let's note that Trump is not entirely Scottish. As TV host John Oliver made famous last year, Trump's family name was originally Drumpf, via his paternal grandfather, who immigrated from Germany. Trump's mother was born in Scotland, but she was a MacLeod by birth. The MacLeods have a crest, but it shows a cow surrounded by a belt or something and, critically, doesn't include the word Trump.

So Trump made his own coat-of-arms (which is different than a crest) and started using it, and Scotland got upset and demanded he stop using it until it was registered. Trump registered the coat-of-arms, and four years later (such things don't progress rapidly, it seems) was granted the right to use it.

But we're not here today to talk about Trump's fight to use a made-up coat-of-arms to make his golf course seem fancier. We're here to talk about the etymology of words derived from Latin.

A spokesperson for Trump International described the coat-of-arms to the New York Post when it was approved in 2012.

Three chevronels are used to denote the sky, sand dunes and sea — the essential components of the [golf resort] site — and the double-sided eagle represents the dual nature and nationality of Trump’s heritage. The eagle clutches golf balls, making reference to the great game of golf, and the motto 'Numquam Concedere' is Latin for 'Never Give Up' — Trump's philosophy.

It is funny to think of a two-headed eagle trying to hold a golf ball.

It is funnier, though, to realize that the primary focus of the past three weeks of Trump's presidential campaign -- if he loses, it's probably because the vote is rigged and he won't accept the results -- is right there in that golfing-eagle coat-of-arms. Numquam concedere. Never give up. Or, even better, "never concede." The verb to concede is derived from concedere. A bit on the nose.

Well, except that "never concede" is not the best translation of numquam concedere. Gareth Williams, who teaches Latin poetry at Columbia University, suggested in an email that the better translation is "never give in." But, still!

If you go to the website for Trump's course in Scotland, you can see the coat-of-arms in all of its extravagance at the top-center of the page. The main page for Trump Golf uses a different crest, with a banner at the bottom reading "Trump" and only two chevrons for some reason. (Maybe it left out the sky?) When Trump bought a course in Ireland two years ago, planning to rebrand it as Trump International Golf Links, Ireland, he repurposed his Scottish coat-of-arms, putting "Ireland" under it instead of "Scotland."

Never give up a good brand logo once you've paid the money to get it approved. Never concede.