Merriam-Webster has been on a roll lately. Following Donald Trump’s recent comments, the dictionary publisher has outlined the difference between “council” and “counsel,” highlighted the origin of the phrase “priming the pump,” and now proved “laugh up one’s sleeve” is indeed a real saying.
The Merriam-Webster social media account tweeted about the idiom following a Trump’s tweet on Thursday, which read, “Russia must be laughing up their sleeves watching as the U.S. tears itself apart over a Democrat EXCUSE for losing the election.”
Only unlike on previous occasions, the account was actually stating that it is an actually turn of phrase, and not made up like many people assumed. (It actually means “to be secretly happy about or amused by something.”) This particular tweet followed an earlier one that noted that searches for the word “showboat” were up significantly since Trump used it in his comments about recently-fired FBI director James Comey.
This isn’t the first time the social media team at Merriam-Webster has commented on current politics, as the account regularly defines words when the terms or meanings blow up in the public sphere. This year alone, the account has defined “feminism” after Kellyanne Conway said she didn’t feel like she could identify as one, and “volunteering” after a United Airlines passenger was violently dragged off the plane after staff asked for volunteers.
Of course, this isn’t something the people behind the dictionary set out to do on a regular basis. Rather, it’s about the words themselves, as editor Merriam-Webster Emily Brewster noted in her interview with EW last year, “Twitter is a great platform for reminding people just exactly what our job is: to provide good information about what words mean.”