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‘Rocket Man’ vs. the ‘Dotard.’ Heaven help us all | Opinion

Two world leaders with their fingers on nuclear triggers sound more like eighth-graders, and I can’t apologize enough to eighth-graders for insulting them that way.

It started with U.S. President Donald Trump addressing the United Nations on Tuesday (Sept. 19) with condemnations of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Trump called North Korea’s regime a “band of criminals” and referred to Kim as a “Rocket Man” on “a suicide mission.”

“The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” he said.

Kim shot back (sorry, bad choice of words) Friday by calling Trump a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard” and vowed the “highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history.”

“Action is the best option in treating the dotard who, hard of hearing, is uttering only what he wants to say,” Kim said. “I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U. S. dotard with fire.”

Before we talk about two grown men threatening to lob nuclear weapons at their respective countries, let’s deal with the really important question: What the heck is a dotard?

Merriam-Webster defines a dotard as “a person in his or her dotage,” which is “a state or period of senile decay marked by decline of mental poise and alertness.”

The Oxford Dictionary definition is “An old person, especially one who has become weak or senile.”

And don’t pretend you already knew what it meant. The word trended on Twitter, and searches for the term were “high as a kite” following Kim’s statement, according to the Merriam-Webster website.

The Washington Post reports that dotard meant “imbecile” when it was first used in the 14th century and comes from the Middle English word “doten,” meaning “to dote,” according to Merriam-Webster.

“It was used by Chaucer in ‘The Canterbury Tales,’ and it appeared numerous times in William Shakespeare’s work, including ‘The Merchant of Venice’ and ‘King Lear,” the Post says.

“J.R.R. Tolkien was also fond of ‘dotard,’ which was a popular pejorative in literature and beyond. The word was used to insult Martin Van Buren, who preceded Trump in the White House by about 175 years, and by Union Army Gen. George McClellan to describe his Civil War predecessor, Gen. Winfield Scott, whom he did not like.”

“Rocket Man,” by comparison is of much more recent vintage. Trump first applied the nickname Kim on Twitter over the weekend before including it in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly. Reports say it was actually on the teleprompter and not a Trump ad lib.

“No nation on Earth has an interest in seeing this band of criminals arm itself with nuclear weapons and missiles,” Trump said in his address at the UN. “The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime. The United States is ready, willing, and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary. That’s what the United Nations is all about. That’s what the United Nations is for. Let’s see how they do.”

The name comes from a popular Elton John song, but doesn’t appear to have a direct connection. The Rocket Man in the song is on his way to Mars, not nuclear oblivion.

Asked by reporters what Kim might have meant by the “highest level of hard-line countermeasure,” The New York Times reported that North Korea’s foreign minister Ri Yong-ho said that only Kim would know, but that he thought the North might be considering the largest test of a hydrogen bomb ever in the Pacific Ocean, according to the South Korean news agency Yonhap.

Trump responded on Twitter by saying that Kim is “obviously a madman.” As in “Madman Across the Water”? Is Elton John on the president’s play list this week?

Once a fool had a good part in the play
If it’s so would I still be here today
It’s quite peculiar in a funny sort of way
They think it’s very funny everything I say
Get a load of him, he’s so insane
You better get your coat dear
It looks like rain, yeah

I’m hoping it’s just rain. You have to laugh to keep from crying.

Tim Morris is an opinions columnist at NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune. He can be reached at tmorris@nola.com. Follow him on Twitter @tmorris504.