How Much Covfefe Is Enough Covfefe?


The hashtag #covfefe has spread across the Twittersphere, prompting some creative interpretations of the latest from the tweeter in chief.

For those who abstain from social media, President Trump tweeted “Despite the constant negative press covfefe” on May 31 at 12:06 a.m. The message ended midmuddle, leaving us to scratch out heads and reach for our smartphones.

A “rosebud” for our time, or at least for our next 15 minutes, covfefe is already laying the groundwork to become Wrdo fo teh arYe, which might be its most suitable lexicographic category.

As to meaning, the Twitterati and Facebookmarkers have been having a field day.

Covfefe: Russian for “I resign.” (Alternately, an attempt to tweet “confess.”) Lots of barbs about the first cup of covfefe in the morning. A pinch of covfefe  (maybe to help the medicine go down). Various serious give-him-the-benefit suggestions, though none likely to solve the riddle of our loquacious sphinx.

What could covfefe mean? Have meant? Might mean?

My favorite posting is lexicographic, from my friend Jeffrey Masten, who teaches at Northwestern:

“Of cour∫e for Shake∫peare and his contemporaries, it was vsually ∫pelled  coufefe.”covfefe

Which has its own indisputable logic. Though the spelling coufefe  raises another cloud of possibilities. I anticipate the next Shakespeare conference entertaining a spirited debate on Elizabethan coufefe, its applications and effects.

But we are not Elizabethans.

Covfefe. A typo. An expletive falling asleep in its own drowsy rage. That brilliant idea you had in the middle of the night, the one that jolts you awake and has you reaching for the notepad you keep always by your bedside just in case; the inspiration, the one thing that solves, the unreturnable volley aimed at your many critics.

Then you wake up, and you’re staring at covfefe.

The president did wake up, or remained up, and just after 6 a.m. tweeted as if he were in on the joke, asking “who could figure out the true meaning of covfefe?”

“True meaning of” is a phrase I associate with treacly holiday specials on network TV.  Reality is elsewhere.

And covfefe or not, there’s the reality of the Paris agreement, American relations with Europe, a trainwreck of appointments and resignations, the health-care debacle, American-on-American terrorism, as well as backchanneling and backtracking of a baroquery we haven’t seen in a long time, at least not in the U.S.

Ours is a political condition for which no magic word or grandstanding utterance will make any positive difference. Though for this brief moment, covfefe — a word whose meaning escapes us — might have to do.

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