Deplorables: Nounified, pluralized form of deplorable, an adjective meaning “lamentable, very sad, grievous, miserable, wretched” and usually used in reference to events, conditions, or circumstances. The adjective is derived from the Latin verb plorare, to weep or bewail.
The adjective deplorable first appeared in print in the early 1600s. The OED provides one citation for the plural noun deplorables: the journal of Sir Walter Scott, published in 1828: “An old fellow, mauld with rheumatism and other deplorables.” (Mauld is an alternate spelling of a regional usage of mauled that means “fatigued.”)
The OED and other dictionaries now have another noteworthy citation: the remarks of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on September 9 at the LGBT for Hillary Gala in New York City. Here’s the relevant section:
We are living in a volatile political environment. You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic -- you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people -- now 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive hateful mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks -- they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America."
(Generalistic is not in standard dictionaries, but once again, Clinton“s is far from its first use.)
Clinton went on to describe “the other basket … of people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they're just desperate for change.”
Basket of deplorables was newsworthy for a number of reasons, one of which is the nounification.
Nouning weirds language. (So does verbing.) https://t.co/hVyy0egCkO— Evan Bernick (@evanbernick) September 10, 2016
But as Ben Zimmer points out in a post published September 10 in Language Log, many –ible and –able adjectives have been converted into plural nouns: consider collectibles, unmentionables, and perishables. And basket of deplorables echoes a phrase familiar in legal circles: parade of horribles, which Ben wrote about in a 2012 Boston Globe column. (Is it possible that Hillary Clinton, a lawyer, drew on parade of horribles to create basket of deplorables? Let’s just say it’s one of the conceivables. Was she thinking, instead, of basket of kisses from the first season of “Mad Men”? It would be pretty to think so.)
Basket of deplorables instantly became a hashtag on Twitter. It was defended by Clinton supporters:
Trumpers: "Hillary's a murderer!" - "Obama's a terrorist Muslim!"— Tea Pain (@TeaPainUSA) September 11, 2016
Trumpers: "The mean lady called us a name!"
And perversely appropriated by the opposition.
Dear Clintons,— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) September 10, 2016
You know what's deplorable?
(Although the tweet refers to Florida, that’s a large Texas flag to the left of the screen.)
Self-described “libertarian conservative” and Trump surrogate Roger Stone – who has publicly called for the assassination of, among other public figures, Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, and Bernie Sanders – envisioned “The Deplorables” as a sort of superhero phalanx modeled after The Expendables (another adjective-to-plural-noun).
Left to right in the image: Stone, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Eric Trump, Mike Pence, an alarmingly microcephalic Donald Trump, white supremacist “mascot” Pepe, Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump Jr., conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, and alt-right gadfly Milo Yiannopoulous. (Hat tip: Joe My God.)
David Duke – the former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, ongoing Nazi sympathizer, and current Republican candidate for U.S. Senator from Louisiana, and ongoing white nationalist and Nazi sympathizer – was similarly titillated.
Compare this appropriation with the co-opting of then-Senator Barack Obama’s remark, at a 2008 campaign fundraiser in San Francisco, that “it’s not surprising” that people in Rust Belt towns “get bitter, they cling to guns or religion.”
This T-shirt is still sold on the Gun Owners of America website.
On the other hand, you could have this.
Movie idea: Mission Deplorable, starring Clintons, Obamas, Biden, Kaine, Warren as team on nationwide hunt to chase down alt-right— Stuart Elliott (@stuartenyt) September 10, 2016
Deplorables was frequently misspelled by both sides.
Thank you Hillary, for #basketofdeplorabes. So many many people who insist they are NOT deplorable sure think we're talking about them.— j.r. (@pourquoinon) September 10, 2016
And some people just wanted to change the subject.
basket of adorables pic.twitter.com/F3eOqTkNLW— Jason Fagone (@jfagone) September 10, 2016