Lost in Translation
Trump Fans, Foiled by Google Translate, Believe ‘Covfefe’ Was a Secret Arabic Message
Pro-Trump media invented a heroic myth that Trump’s typo was an elaborate code to take on the Kabul car bombers. Turns out they were using Google Translate wrong.
Diehard fans of Donald Trump on Reddit believe they cracked the code to Donald Trump’s secret trolling genius: the true definition of covfefe.
Trump tweeted the typo instead of the word “coverage” late Tuesday night, prompting an onslaught of memes and ridicule since. But a user on Reddit’s r/the_donald, the largest Trump community on the web, believed he found out its true meaning by running a variation of the word through Google Translate.
“We all thought it was funny. I thought it was maybe because President Trump got interrupted mid-tweet by the Kabul bombing,” wrote user WeAreGonnaMAGA late on Wednesday. “But Sean Spicer said, cryptically, “The president and a small group of people know exactly what he meant. u/Shake33 figured out that it translates into Arabic as ‘I will stand up.’”
Turns out the translation is wrong.
“This is insane,” Yale University Islam scholar and Arabic speaker Andrew March told The Daily Beast. “Why would they think this?”
After a few hours, even the same r/the_donald post was amended to answer that question.
“Yeah if you follow the link to google translate, it first transliterated the English word into an approximate Arabic phrase ‘sof fuqof,’ sof simple being the future tense ‘I will,’ and ‘fa qaaf fa’ meaning stand up,” wrote user MantananForTrump.
“Since cuvfefe has no glottal ‘qaaf’ sound in it, this is merely a mistake of Google Translate’s original transliteration and it doesn't mean what the English phrase says at the bottom.”
Still, Trump’s temporary secret genius made it all the way to Twitter accounts of alt-right and pro-Trump Twitter figureheads like Cassandra Fairbanks, forums like 4chan, and numerous YouTube videos.
“Cov fe'fe is ‘I will stand up’ in Arabic. It was right after the bombing in Kabul,” wrote Fairbanks. “To quote a failed politician: ‘Delete your account.’”
The website Truthfeed took credit for the scoop, too, saying "after doing some research and using Google Translate, we found 'Cov fe’fe' in Arabic means 'I will stand up'" and that the tweet "now makes perfect sense."
Trump’s late night gaffe actually being a brilliant, covert troll job simply had too much appeal for some users to discard. Some invented elaborate conspiracy theories that, since the tweet occurred ten minutes after a car bombing in Kabul, that “this was for them” and that “meme magic is real.” WeAreGonnaMAGA referred to the tweet as 26-dimensional chess.
MantananForTrump’s debunking, along with the initial post, was deleted. All of the comments in support of the conspiracy remain on Reddit.
Fairbanks even wrote a post called “Sit Down Hillary Clinton, Here’s What ‘Covfefe’ Really Means” for the website BigLeaguePolitics.
“Trump also recently returned from a foreign trip to Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, where he addressed leaders and citizens of the Arab world,” she wrote. “You’re welcome.”
That post is still up on Big League Politics’ website, uncorrected.