I’m not betraying any secrets when I tell you that TURNCOAT was the pangram in Sunday’s New York Times online Spelling Bee. (A pangram is a word that contains all the letters in a given alphabet, in this case A, C, N, O, R, T, and U.)
You’ll need to find 43 words in this hive to achieve the coveted “Queen Bee” status. Words must contain at least four letters, one of which must be the central letter. Letters may be re-used in a word.
Turncoat was also on the minds of some people who followed the Senate vote on Saturday in Donald J. Trump’s second impeachment trial. Although the tally fell short of the 67 votes needed to convict the ex-president, seven Republican senators did break ranks to vote with their Democratic colleagues. “Seven Turncoats” was the finger-pointing headline in American Thinker, a conservative daily online magazine. (The piece also calls the aye-voting senators “treasonous faux Republicans” and asserts that “Trump was a truly great president” and also “the most revered president since Reagan”—in case you had any confusion about where they’re coming from.)
What is a turncoat? Here’s a good explanation from Vocabulary.com:
A turncoat is a traitor. … Turncoat comes from the ancient practice of wearing a badge or pin on one's coat signifying the party or leader you supported. By “turning your coat” you quite literally hid your allegiance to others. Often used interchangeably with defector, and while they are similar they are not quite the same. Turncoat is worse: it implies no possibility of any good or honest motive. Defector can at least sometimes have a neutral or even positive implication.
The first appearance of the noun turncoat in print was in 1570, before its spelling (or any other English spelling) had been standardized: “I will beleue none of you all, for you be turne coates, and chaungelinges, and be wauering minded.” It appeared as an adjective the following year: “Hee peynteth out more expressely theire turnecote craftynesse.”
Here’s what I love about turncoat: It’s a special sort of word, a member of a category called agentive and instrumental exocentric verb-noun compounds. Or, if you prefer, cutthroat compounds.