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'Covfefe' Kerfuffle: Trump's Typo Sparks A Search For Meaning, And Humor

A tweet by President Trump, which has been deleted, caused a stir with its mention of "negative press covfefe."
Screenshot by NPR
A tweet by President Trump, which has been deleted, caused a stir with its mention of "negative press covfefe."

What do you do about a problem like "covfefe"? That word from President Trump's late-night tweet set Twitter ablaze overnight, sparking jokes and quasi-definitions of what seems to have been a typo. The covfefe kerfuffle is a reminder that we're living in a unique political era: Even the words are brand-new.

The tweet — "Despite the constant negative press covfefe" — was retweeted and liked more than 100,000 times after it was posted Wednesday just after midnight Eastern time. It was deleted around 6 a.m. Wednesday, but by then, the typo had become a word, with a rapidly evolving life of its own.

The new term is being received as a modern take on Citizen Kane's enigmatic "Rosebud" — and it seems the president approves. After deleting the tweet, Trump, sphinxlike, wrote, "Who can figure out the true meaning of 'covfefe' ??? Enjoy!"

By the time that message went out, the search was well underway. Charles M. Blow of The New York Times published a take on Trump as chef, sprinkling a dash of covfefe that could presumably take a dish to the next level.

Comedian Jimmy Kimmel tweeted, "what makes me saddest is that I know I'll never write anything funnier than #covfefe."

When we asked the White House for a hint of the term's meaning Wednesday, representatives didn't respond before this story was published.

A California man reportedly registered covfefe as his license plate.

Around the world, people are taking the president up on his offer. As of Wednesday morning, covfefe was a top trending term on Twitter from Perth, Australia, to Delhi, India, and from Mexico City to Paris.

Debates sprang up over how to pronounce covfefe. While some prefer "cov-FEE-fee," many others gravitate toward the more continental "cov-FAY-fay" or "cov-FEH-feh." And a small but insistent minority says it's simply "cov-FEEF."

When we plugged the word into Google Translate, the service suggested covfefe could be Samoan. But any hopes of an evocative translation were dashed by the default result: covfefe.

Merriam-Webster, whose Twitter account has taken shots at Trump in the past, seemed overwhelmed, posting just after 1 a.m., "Regrets checking Twitter. Goes back to bed."

A figure named Covfefe the Strong used a new Twitter account to announce, "I have been summoned to this world. I know not why."

He was countered by the Wizard Cofefe, who said that he had been summoned by "the Great Orb of T'kketh!"

The tweet even struck a nerve with another man known for his tan and his unnatural hair. Yes, wrestling legend Ric Flair woke up early and entered the fray, leaping off the top turnbuckle with a GIF of himself and saying, "To be the #covfefe, you gotta beat the #covfefe - WOOOOO!"

But for one day at least, the covfefe was simply unbeatable.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.