Excerpt from The Secret Lodge Notebooks of the obscure Mr. Mizzle, stork, storekeeper and Walt Kelly scion
[Trump. I’ve been seeing and hearing this word on the wind lately, and I wasn’t sure if it was tramp , a trunk, a tromp or a reference to a temporarily designated powerful suit in some card games, maybe even an astonishing hair-do first seen in a Star Trek malefactor, or a realtor or a TV comedian who badmouths, browbeats then banishes masochistic minions with a wave of his wicked wand. As usual, when confounded by the mire of evidence before me, all further complexicated by my own native ignorance, I perambulate and bateau to the island to confab with my old mentor Pogo Possum of Okefenokee RFD and put the question to the nocturnal sage himself, who never fails to ponder powerful, muse mercilessly and shed substantial light, though he’s oft prone to hiss or drop off to dreamland if contradicted.
Pogo allowed as how a trump is a card that can whallop down or whup upon any other suit, though some using that name seem to be sporting suits which are not so suited to their configuration. And as a slang noun, it was once the word used to designate a fine fellow; as a verb, to excel or surpass. But these didn’t match up well with the palaver I’d been encountering, so Pogo pushed deeper into the swamp of my unknowing, saying that in Old High German it was trumba and meant a horn. Well, now we’re plowing a straight row, I thought. It also points to a kind of flower and a vine and a swan, all horn-shaped, excepting the swan, but I expect the old omnivore could guess by the dullness emanating from the windows to my soul that I still wasn’t able to line up my experience of the word with his information. So he sets in: Somehow trump’s an outlaw version of triumph, but a victory come by through other than gentlemaanly means. My eyes must of brightened up a bit, so he proceeded to add that the whole thing likely weasels around to us from the French.
Now I know how Mr. Twain felt about the French, but I decided to set that aside and take some heed anyway. “Do tell?” I said, encouraging like, “Dites moi.” “Tien,” says Pogo, in his best mud-Gallic accent, “eef vous go back to zee Meedle Engleach and Vieux Francais, you discover trompe, which eez meaning to deceive, hoodwink, dupe, hornswaggle. Vous have, sans doute, ecoutee of trumpery, weech eez twaddle, nonsense, zometheeng rubbishy. Zumwhere een zat word eez ‘rump,’ n’est-ce pas?”
I straightaway begged for mercy, merci, having had all the foreign lingo I could swallow for one season. “Shoot straight,” says I, and so Pogo reports the obvious. “Given le monde which we now find ourselves whiching in these days, trumpery is zee watchword of zee zeitgeist, ole buddy, zee flavor of zee decade, better than catfish and onions in a black moon iron skillet over a fire of cypress, cedar and driftwood.”
Pogo allowed as how in his Random House Webster’s trump is situated in a column between one column to the left with true in it (c’est vrai!) and a column to the right showing trust. Quelle fromage.
Sensing that my audience was likely at an end, as he produced a Ball jar of white squirrel-eye stockade from under one of his many stumps, I ventured a parting shot: “What about trumpet creeper? Isn’t that from China?” In betwixt swigs Pogo whispered, “Y’all got fooled on that one. It’s just a misspell. The old folks who dictionaried originally wrote trumpet creepier, like anthropaphagus, which is all I have to pronounce on the matter,” and then he was peregrinating off into the dark to canoodle with Miz Hepsibah, count his own spoondolicks or snout out some rare ripe deceased creature for a snack before Sarcophagus McArbre could spiral down on it. I could hear him humming through the ferns and ringlety mosses and the kent, kent of ghost ivory bills high on the dying trunks, “You get a line and I’ll get a poll, honey.” Bless his heart.
So I left that swamp a changed man, which is not to say a wiser one, but I got eat up by no see’ums and had to pick off ticks from first light to last – rowrbazzle! – so I’ve decided it’s useful if not vital for my self esteem if I reckon all this trinformation inextimably valuable, the tunnel at the end of the light. Thus self-persuaded, I felt compelled to share. Y’all come.
“We’ll go down to that écrevisse hole, honey oh baby mine.”]