“Covfefe” Explained! (Well, not Really)

RedStateWatcher proclaims:  BREAKING! “Covfefe” Mystery Solved! President Trump Wins Again!

After doing some research and using Google Translate, we found “Cov fe’fe” in Arabic means “I will stand up.”

Except, the NYT reports:  No, ‘Covfefe’ Was Not Trump Speaking Arabic

“Covfefe,” these people on the internet insist, is Arabic for “I will stand up.” That is not even close to true. We asked Ali Adeeb Alnaemi, a professor of Arabic at New York University, what he thought of this translation, which has been falsely spread online by anonymous Reddit users with screen names like “PepeTheRacistFrog.”

Mr. Alnaemi, who previously worked for The New York Times in Baghdad, made a good-faith effort to see where this mistranslation may have come from. In a phone interview, he repeated the word “covfefe” several times before finally laughing. “Come on,” he said. “I’m sorry. No.”


There is no standardized method for rendering Arabic words in Latin script, but the professor said if Mr. Trump had wanted to write “I will stand up” in Arabic he would have written something like “saqef” or “sawfa aqef.”

“Honestly when I heard that some writers thought Trump was speaking Arabic I said to myself, ‘Wow, they know Arabic more than I do,'” Mr. Alnaemi, who was born and raised in Iraq, said. “Because I cannot think of a word that would mean the equivalent of ‘covfefe.'”

But, of course, what would a professor of Arabic know?

The notion that this was a secret Arabic message is hilarious for at least two reasons:

  1.  Mr. Trump is not known for his English skills, so branching out into a foreign language seems unlikely, if not more than a tad laughable.
  2. Of all languages, the notion that his supporters would cleave to an Arabic message as a means of defending the President is beyond ironic, especially given many of their attacks on the alleged secret Muslim-ness of the previous President (not to mention their general phobia on this general topic).



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Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Stormy Dragon says:

    Everyone is making a big deal about the typo. Am I the only who was more disturbed by the sentence just ending halfway without having actually said anything?

    What despite this negative press coverage?

  2. @Stormy Dragon: It is quite clearly a typo/an aborted tweet. I think it has been what is has been because, well, a) the internet in general, b) many people are hungry for some levity, and then c) the fact that WH won’t just admit it was a typo.

    Of course, if I could fully explain what would go viral, how, and when, OTB would have a lot more readers and I could retire to the mountains.

  3. Jen says:

    @Stormy Dragon: I also found that odd, and disconcerting. Especially since it was followed by around 6 hours of silence–if it was an errant tweet, it could have been quickly deleted. It almost feels like he fell asleep mid-tweet.

    As far as the suggestion of Trump deciding to learn and use Arabic–please. People don’t realize when they are embarrassing themselves anymore. (Or, more likely, they don’t care.)

  4. wr says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: ” I could retire to the mountains.”

    If I thought the site’s all-new pop-up-and-cover-the-content ads were making a substantial contribution to that goal, I might not hate them quite as much.

  5. @wr:

    I will plead “not my department” on that one.

  6. John Peabody says:

    But…its GOOGLE! Google can’t be wrong….unless the NSA cracked into Silicon Valley and messed with the translating algorithms… Holey Moley I’ve got an article to write! Catch you later!

  7. KM says:

    The entire tweet was “Despite the constant negative press covfefe.” In order for their BS to even remotely make sense, that structure would be “Despite the constant negative press I will stand up.” That’s not a complete sentence or thought. Negative press ____ what Donald? Most logical word is “coverage” and wouldn’t ya know, the F key is really really close to the R and G and if you fat-finger it, guess what you get?

    In other words, RedStateWatcher it’s a typo you lying %$*^$(&*$. I know you have desperate readers who want to believe but even more are gonna look at you like, “Yeah I do that all the time. Stupid autocorrect can’t figure out either”. Anyone who believes this crap needs to be taken out behind the woodshed and have some common sense beaten into them.

  8. michael reynolds says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    It’s disturbing that it was sent. It means he has no adult supervision while tweeting. And given Trump’s stupidity he could tweet anything. He could start dashing off ultimata. He is perfectly capable of declaring war in a tweet.

  9. Pch101 says:

    Trump fans are idiots.

    Trump may be dyslexic and/or in the early stages of dementia.

  10. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:


    Trump may be is dyslexic and/or in the early stages of dementia.

    Tuned that up for you. No need for thanks.

  11. al-Alameda says:

    “Covfefe” ?
    You’re all wasting time. Highly placed unnamed sources in the White House tell me that “Covfefe” was the auto-correct result when Trump typed “I’m smart”.

  12. JKB says:

    covfefe – “the news as presented by reporters for newspapers or radio or television” in the shrill manner of the fife to lead people away from reality and into a constant state of agitation.

  13. Lounsbury says:

    Weird. Arabic doesn’t have the V in any case.

  14. Pch101 says:

    The United States has a president who is fluent in no languages.

  15. Scott O says:

    Covfefe means Gramps will have to go to a nursing home soon. If we can find one that will take him. All he does is whine and complain.

  16. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Donald Trump writes Twitter messages that have meaning? Didn’t see THAT comin’!

  17. rachel says:


    Highly placed unnamed sources in the White House tell me that “Covfefe” was the auto-correct result when Trump typed “I’m smart”.

    Their explanation is incomplete. It really means

    I’m smart! Not like everybody says… like dumb… I’m smart and I want respect!

  18. gVOR08 says:

    @al-Alameda: Are you saying that trying to make sense out of Trump saying, “I’m smart” burned out Trumps auto correct and left his phone going, “Does not compute. Does not compute.” for six hours?

  19. rodney dill says:

    I think everyone needs to lay off the alcoholic bevfefe’s for awhile.

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