The Dictionary Has A Word For The People Trump Allegedly Hires To Generate Applause

Welcome to the claque.
JEFF KOWALSKY via Getty Images

We are in the midst of a claque-roversy.

After President Donald Trump’s visit to the Central Intelligence Agency on Saturday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that CIA employees gave the new leader “a five-minute standing ovation at the end in a display of their patriotism and their enthusiasm for his presidency.”

CNN says yes, applause happened. CBS also says yes, applause happened. But, citing U.S. government sources, the latter suggests the cheering may have come from supporters invited by Trump, rather than from CIA employees.

“[Authorities] say the first three rows in front of the president were largely made up of supporters of Mr. Trump’s campaign,” CBS’ Jeff Pegues writes, adding that CIA’s senior leadership, also seated in the front rows, were not applauding.

The Washington Post eventually weighed in, pointing out that the alleged incident would not be the first time “Trump has engineered applause.” (According to WaPo and Politico, the president reportedly paid people to applaud him on this occasion and this one.)

And then, the internet watchdog of all internet watchdogs stepped into the “fake applause” fray. Yeah, we’re talking about the dictionary.

In a blog post, Merriam-Webster explained that there is indeed a word for a group of people hired to applaud someone. That word is “claque.”

M-W writes:

Claque means “a group hired to applaud at a performance” or “a group of sycophants.” A member of a claque can be called a claquer. People have been paid to show enthusiasm at performances since ancient times, and the practice went from Greece and Rome to France in the 18th and 19th centuries.

According to the dictionary, “claque” entered into English in the 1800s. The blog post provides an example of the word’s usage in The Scotsman in 1837: “A National Guard said he recollected having seen the man, and even speaking to him, at the Opera on Friday night last. The National Guard describes him as belonging to the claque, or hired applauders of the theatre.”

So, hiring claquers isn’t unheard of ― though M-W hardly confirmed the employment of them at the CIA. Instead, it reported that “claque” look-ups on M-W spiked not long after Trump’s CIA visit.

Do what you will with this information. And keep in mind: facts are important, but there are many other Trump-related controversies more pressing than this one.

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