"trump up" = inflate

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Mon Apr 14 17:40:42 UTC 2008

On Apr 14, 2008, at 9:31 AM, Joel Berson wrote:

> Since you clearly wrote "i
> also suspect that most people here are *unfamiliar* [emphasis added]
> with the 'inflate, blow up, exaggerate' sense of "trump up" [etc.]",
> I supposed it was worth saying that someone on this list was, and
> from where he thought it arose.
> At 4/14/2008 12:01 PM, Arnold M. Zwicky wrote:
>> On Apr 14, 2008, at 8:50 AM, Joel Berson wrote:
>>> At 4/14/2008 11:04 AM, Arnold M. Zwicky wrote:
>>>> i also suspect that most people here are unfamiliar with the
>>>> 'inflate,
>>>> blow up, exaggerate' sense of "trump up"; for most of us, it looks
>>>> like an innovation (or a survival, or a previously unencountered
>>>> dialect item).  the comments so far suggest that it's a combo (of
>>>> some
>>>> sort) of the widespread "trump up" 'invent' and "trumpet", perhaps
>>>> influenced by by some other V+"up" combinations.
>>> "Trumped up excuse/charges" is familiar and not new for me, with the
>>> sense of "invented, exaggerated".  I associate it with the "trump
>>> v.3" of card-playing.
>> yes, and i said exactly that, just before the material you cite above
>> (in which the "also suspect" refers back to this earlier material)...

in my earlier posting i distinguished the 'invent, fabricate' sense
from an 'inflate, exaggerate' sense.  the first is entirely routine,
occurs in "trumped-up charge/story", and is described accurately in
the OED (and other dictionaries), which takes it to be derived from
the card-playing "trump"; all this i said in my earlier posting.  the
second sense is the innovative one, which i suggested is a semantic
extension of the first.

i now see -- i didn't appreciate this before -- that in your response
you have folded the two senses together, in (as you wrote) "invented,
exaggerated" above.  trumped-up charges/etc. are invented or
fabricated; but i don't understand "trumped-up charges" to refer to
*exaggerated* charges, though, as i said, there's a path that could
get people from one to the other.  it's clear from Alison Murie's
response that she takes "trumped-up charges" to have the 'invented'
sense (which was familiar to her) and not the 'exaggerated' sense and
that's my judgment as well.

ah, maybe you see 'invent, exaggerate' as one sense and the sense
(however one characterizes it) of "the Clinton camp is trying to trump
up the statement" as another.  if so, then my cite "relying on lies
and distortions to trump up her past experience" is just plain old
"trump up" and should excite no lexicographic interest.

i'll stick by my characterization of sense 1 as 'invent, fabricate',
but there's a lot more to be said about uses of "trump up" that stray
from this territory -- all of which strike me as novel:
   the 'exaggerate' uses of "trump up", as in "trump up her past
experience"; this is not far from sense 1, and in this particular
occurrence fabrication is involved;
   extensions of 'exaggerate' to 'increase, expand', as in "trump up
small noises [to be bigger ones]" and "trump up viewership for the
show's next season";
   a possibly related extension to 'blow up', as in the original
Clinton example.

i'm sure that there are a lot more uses, and that the details would
repay close textual study (which i'm not in a position to perform).
they all strike me as innovations, though.


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