It may very well become the most popular typo in the history of texting. When President Trump accidentally tweeted “covfefe” at the end of a message he clearly never meant to send, the Internet went berserk. Soon, “covfefe” was appearing on memes of all kinds and popping up in random conversation. Someone started a pool on how long it would be before someone named their kid Covfefe.
Trump played it off, sending a follow-up tweet joking about the mistake. The next day, press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters it was an inside joke, to which the reporters dutifully spent the rest of the day “debating” the veracity of this “claim.”
When Jimmy Kimmel weighed in, folks knew covfefe had made it mainstream. Then Hillary Clinton offered her take on the typo, and everything got ugly and political again.
But by that time, “covfefe” had become a cultural icon, getting way more than 15 minutes of fame online as people tried to out-clever each other by covfefeing everything imaginable. Perhaps one of the most popular memes turned out to be a mockup of a familiar Ikea instruction manual that showed Trump’s Wall with the title: COVFEFE. The joke landed for just about everyone, and it made what should have never been a serious topic into a fun one.
But covfefe wasn’t done. The hugely popular game app Words With Friends got the most out of covfefe by adding the “word” to its dictionary. The game designers even took a stab at defining the term: “the amount and quality of reporting when autocorrect fails you at 3 am.”
Perhaps not the smoothest of definitions, but points to Words With Friends for getting some quick and positive PR out of the whole rigmarole.
Most people took the whole thing with a humorous grain of salt, even when some others tried to make it way too serious. But, at the end of the day, covfefe offers us a very interesting look into the power of words and meaning.
This was a term utterly devoid of meaning. No one knew exactly what Trump meant, although it appears he meant to say “coverage” and then complain some more about the press, but once the term took on a life of its own, the meaning was left entirely up to the recipient. For some, it was just a reason for a laugh. For others, it was a political siren call … for others, it represented a culture that has become a parody of itself.
Whatever the meaning people ascribed to it, that meaning came entirely from inside them … and that’s the lesson. Nothing you say will ever be taken exactly how you mean it. Choose your message very carevfefely.