At a press briefing yesterday, Sean Spicer continued the Trump administration’s refusal to believe that words have specific meanings. When answering questions about the president’s claim that former president Barack Obama wiretapped Trump during the campaign, Spicer argued that “wiretapping” in air quotes is not the same thing as wiretapping.
Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!
The president did use quotes in the two tweets above. He also used “tapp” (without quotation marks) in another tweet. But critics point out that the usage of quotation marks and misspelling does not change the meanings of words, as argued by Spicer as he deployed air quotes around the word wiretaps:
“I think there’s no question that the Obama administration, that there were actions about surveillance and other activities that occurred in the 2016 election. The President used the word wiretaps in quotes to mean, broadly, surveillance and other activities.”
Spicer’s claim caused a 98,000% increase in the number of people searching for the definition of wiretap on Merriam-Webster’s dictionary site. According to the site, “Wiretap means ‘to tap a telephone or telegram wire in order to get information’; this use of tap means ‘to cut in on (something, such as a telephone or radio signal) to get information.'”
Aileen Wagner employs her love of words as a writer and editor. She is the owner of Walnut Bend Creative, and spends her time working on everything from textbooks to narratives to research presentations.
She lives with her family in Columbus, Ohio. You can connect with her at walnutbendcreative.wordpress.com or via Walnut Bend Creative on Facebook.