After important events, people often rush to look up unfamiliar words in news coverage. As a public service, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary Twitter account often publicizes the top searches. Last Monday, after the two-party summit and press conference in Helsinki, the top look-ups were, in order, treason, abase, traitor, collusion, and presser. The last word is jargon for “press conference”; the other words reflect opinions about the behavior of the American president toward his Russian counterpart.
If the list had been a little longer, another, more exotic word might have been included: quisling.
What do you call politicians who betray their country for transitory political and financial advantage by working for a corrupt regime?— Bob Garfield (@Bobosphere) July 16, 2018
You call them quislings. And neither history nor irate citizens treat them well.
Quisling first entered English in 1940, when German forces occupied Norway and Major Vidkun Quisling (1887–1945), a Norwegian officer, diplomat, and fascist leader, collaborated with them. His surname quickly became a lower-case synonym for “traitor.”
Here’s a picture of Norwegian World War II collaborator Vidkun Quisling with Adolf Hitler. It was Winston Churchill who started using the word «quisling» as a term for traitor. Too bad we still need it. #quisling pic.twitter.com/OZuyJouqQd— Per M. Koch (@perkoch) July 16, 2018
But Quisling had already been genericized in Norwegian seven years earlier. According to a Wikipedia entry:
The first recorded use of the term was by Norwegian Labour Party politician Oscar Torp in a 2 January 1933 newspaper interview, where he used it as a general term for followers of Vidkun Quisling. Quisling was at this point in the process of establishing the Nasjonal Samling (National Unity) party, a fascist party modelled on the German Nazi Party.
Vidkun Quisling. April 1940. Born in 1887, Quisling was convicted of treason and executed in October 1945.
I’d known about quisling for a long time – I was a teenage World War II nerd – but I learned only last week that it gave rise to a verb, to quisle. (This will remind some readers about the famous Kipling joke.) I also learned about quisling’s opposite: Jøssing, a label for a Norwegian patriot.
The Jøssing label (always capitalized) comes not from a person but from a place, the Jøssingfjorden, where on February 16, 1940, a British destroyer freed prisoners from the German cruiser Admiral Graf Spee. According to Wikipedia:
After this incident in the Jøssingfjorden, the term Jøssing came to mean a Norwegian patriot, the opposite of a Quisling (or traitor). The origin of this term is ironic: the Norwegian collaborator government tried to neutralize their nickname Quislings by using the Jøssingfjord event to coin a derogatory term Jøssing, referring to "anti-nazis". This attempt backfired, as it was quickly appropriated as a positive term by the Norwegian populace, and in 1943 the word was banned from official use. As a consequence, the best known illegal Norwegian newspaper got its name from the same incident: Jøssingposten (The Jøssingpost).
Jøssing didn’t gain currency in English, but quisling is alive and well, as are some new coinages.
Trussia (Trump + Russia? Treason + Russia?) laptop sleeve via Red Bubble.