The internet is full of confident people who do not know what they are talking about. The latest example: a conviction spreading in right-leaning social media communities that a garbled tweet by the president — he wrote “covfefe” — was not a late-night typo but was instead Mr. Trump sending a message to the world in Arabic.
“Covfefe,” these people on the internet insist, is Arabic for “I will stand up.” That is not even close to true. We asked Ali Adeeb Alnaemi, a professor of Arabic at New York University, what he thought of this translation, which has been falsely spread online by anonymous Reddit users with screen names like “PepeTheRacistFrog.”
Mr. Alnaemi, who previously worked for The New York Times in Baghdad, made a good-faith effort to see where this mistranslation may have come from. In a phone interview, he repeated the word “covfefe” several times before finally laughing. “Come on,” he said. “I’m sorry. No.”
Mr. Trump wrote the word as part of a half finished tweet that was posted just after midnight on Wednesday and not deleted for several hours. Most people assumed it was a typo, but a meme was quickly born. In a tweet posted the next morning, the president seemed to join in the fun, joking that the word’s true meaning may never be known.
His press secretary, Sean Spicer, did not seem to think it was a laughing matter, however. “The president and a small group of people know exactly what he meant,” he said at a briefing on Wednesday, to the disbelief of the assembled reporters.
But what did the president mean? Mr. Alnaemi said the word “covfefe” was “something meaningless” in Arabic, a language that Mr. Trump, who campaigned on a pledge to ban Muslims from the United States, has never publicly claimed to speak.
There is no standardized method for rendering Arabic words in Latin script, but the professor said if Mr. Trump had wanted to write “I will stand up” in Arabic he would have written something like “saqef” or “sawfa aqef."
“Honestly when I heard that some writers thought Trump was speaking Arabic I said to myself, ‘Wow, they know Arabic more than I do,’” Mr. Alnaemi, who was born and raised in Iraq, said. “Because I cannot think of a word that would mean the equivalent of ‘covfefe.’”Continue reading the main story