Showing what would happen if your computer’s spell check became sentient and snarkily judgmental, whoever runs Merriam-Webster’s Twitter account has taken President Trump to task for a social media spelling error. Again.
It started sometime after 4 p.m. Saturday, at the end of a mostly peaceful protest in Boston, where most demonstrators rallied against hate.
Afterward, the president thumbed out a tweet of solidarity:
“Our country has been divided for decades,” he tweeted. “Sometimes you need protest in order to heel, & we will heel, & be stronger than ever before.”
He ultimately deleted the erroneous spelling. In fact, there were two “heel”-related errors before Trump finally got the homophones right.
Trump makes the same spelling mistakes two tweets in a row. pic.twitter.com/N5q7TaKk9i
— Erick Fernandez (@ErickFernandez) August 19, 2017
But it was too late. Minutes after Trump’s tweets, the dictionary purveyor Merriam-Webster posted a helpful tip-tweet on the different definitions of the word that sounds like “heal,” for any president who might be paying attention.
By Saturday afternoon, it had been retweeted more than 20,000 times.
heal (to become healthy again)
heel (a contemptible person)
♂️ he'll (he will)
— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) August 19, 2017
It was an all-too familiar response for what The Washington Post’s Julia Carpenter called “Twitter’s edgiest dictionary.”
Merriam-Webster hasn’t always had its fingers on the political and cultural pulse. The dictionary’s Twitter presence “was pretty scheduled and staid: a Word of the Day tweet in the morning and a quiz tweet in the afternoon,” Lisa Schneider, the dictionary’s chief digital officer and publisher, told Carpenter.
Then it started posting emoji-filled messages and defining the political and cultural controversies of the day:
'Fascism' is still our #1 lookup.
# of lookups = how we choose our Word of the Year.
There's still time to look something else up.
— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) November 29, 2016
In Trump, the tweeting dictionary found the perfect foil. The most powerful man in America has 36.3 million followers and, at times, has been known to tweet cringe-worthy misspellings.
Trump’s administration misused the word “feminist” and misspelled the word “honor.” Merriam-Webster once responded to the misspelling of “leightweight” with “We have no. idea.”
— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) February 26, 2016
So Saturday afternoon should not come as a surprise to anyone.
Nor was it surprising that others who have targeted Trump (or his language choices) pounced on his misspelling.
And they pointed out that “heel,” in addition to being a body part, is also a noun that means “a contemptible person” who is “self-centered or untrustworthy.”
— Anne Frank Center (@AnneFrankCenter) August 20, 2017
You can teach a man to hate, or you can teach him to spell, but apparently not both. pic.twitter.com/RqXOKPQpCG
— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) August 19, 2017
Spelling is Trump's Achilles heal.
— Big Green Bookshop (@Biggreenbooks) August 19, 2017
In his latest tweet, Trump commands America to heel.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) August 19, 2017
Still, the outcry was far from the roar that went up when Trump tweeted the nonword “covfefe.”
On the last day of May, just after midnight, Trump tweeted this sentence fragment heard around the world: “Despite the constant negative press covfefe.”
He deleted the error hours later, but not before it had been retweeted 127,000 times and liked more than 162,000, becoming, as The Post’s Travis Andrews wrote, one of Trump’s most popular tweets in months at that point.
It seemed as if everyone was getting in on the covfefe action. Even Merriam-Webster took a jab. Sort of.
Regrets checking Twitter.
Goes back to bed.
— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) May 31, 2017