American News

The Daily Devil’s Dictionary: “Endangered” Visits

Boris Johnson news, Johnson news, Theresa May news, British news, UK news, Britain news, European news, Europe news, Donald Trump UK visit, Trump news

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson © Stuart Boulton

January 16, 2018 06:54 EDT

As Boris Johnson protects Britain from danger, the Allahabad High Court in India announces, “Honesty has virtually become an endangered species.”

According to The Guardian, British Prime Minister Theresa May has formally invited US President Donald Trump for a state visit, though — sadly, given the importance of the event — “without a full-blown state banquet.” Prominent politicians from the opposing Labour Party have had the gumption to criticize Trump’s policies and even dared to suggest he may be unwelcome in the United Kingdom.

This was too much for May’s foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, who saw danger lurking. He upbraided his rivals, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and London Mayor Sadiq Khan, with these words: “The US is the biggest single investor in the UK — yet Khan & Corbyn seem determined to put this crucial relationship at risk. We will not allow US-UK relations to be endangered by some puffed up pompous popinjay in City Hall.”

Here is today’s 3D definition:


Adversely modified as a result of telling the truth, especially if there is money involved

The Daily Devil’s Dictionary sees no need to define, even for a modern audience, the word “popinjay,” an archaic word for parrot, now applied mainly to pretentious people who are inclined to employ Shakespearean verbiage to insult their enemies.

Contextual note

Johnson felt compelled to castigate Corbyn and Khan after learning that Trump had cancelled a planned visit to London to open the new US embassy. Trump gave as the spurious reason for his cancellation his indignation at learning that his predecessor, Barack Obama, had decided to sell the former embassy in Grosvenor Square at an unfavorable price. In fact, the sale was initiated by George W. Bush, but it is more consistent with Trump’s logic to blame Obama, every element of whose legacy he is on a mission to overturn.

Nevertheless, Johnson was perceptive enough to see through the hypocrisy of Trump’s excuse and offer as the real reason the attitude of his own political opponents. It was only fitting. Just as Trump could blame Obama for Bush’s initiative, Johnson could blame the Labour politicians for Trump’s cancellation and deny the real reason, according to Business Insider: Trump’s fear of mass protests against his presence in Britain. This is the very reason Mayor Khan put forward. In Khan’s words, “His visit next month would without doubt have been met by mass peaceful protests.”

Thought there was no direct link, it is worth noticing that this controversy emerged on the same day that President Trump’s derogatory and racist characterization of Haiti and African countries broke in the news.

Historical note

Since the 17th century, England’s political culture has always had a bipolar tendency, shifting between Cavalier (royalists, supporters of King Charles I) and Roundhead (the Puritan revolutionaries, followers of Oliver Cromwell, who beheaded the king). Theresa May is a typical stern and dour Roundhead, all business and no style, whereas Boris Johnson appears to fancy himself a Cavalier poet. Thus he is constantly tempted to produce a courtier’s rhetoric, which runs the risk of obscuring even a message designed to serve May’s Puritan cause. In this case, the cause is none other than to strengthen the ties with the former Puritan colonies, now a powerful nation on the other side of the Atlantic, as she loosens Britain’s ties with Europe.

As The Guardian comments, while the Boris the Cavalier’s “tweet initially seemed to take No 10 by surprise, Johnson’s comments were later endorsed.” Acknowledging the contrast in style, Downing Street explained, “Boris expresses himself in his own inimitable way — but we agree that any risk to the crucial US-UK relationship is not in our country’s best interests.”

*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

Photo Credit: Stuart Boulton /

For more than 10 years, Fair Observer has been free, fair and independent. No billionaire owns us, no advertisers control us. We are a reader-supported nonprofit. Unlike many other publications, we keep our content free for readers regardless of where they live or whether they can afford to pay. We have no paywalls and no ads.

In the post-truth era of fake news, echo chambers and filter bubbles, we publish a plurality of perspectives from around the world. Anyone can publish with us, but everyone goes through a rigorous editorial process. So, you get fact-checked, well-reasoned content instead of noise.

We publish 2,500+ voices from 90+ countries. We also conduct education and training programs on subjects ranging from digital media and journalism to writing and critical thinking. This doesn’t come cheap. Servers, editors, trainers and web developers cost money.
Please consider supporting us on a regular basis as a recurring donor or a sustaining member.

Support Fair Observer

We rely on your support for our independence, diversity and quality.

Will you support FO’s journalism?

We rely on your support for our independence, diversity and quality.

Donation Cycle

Donation Amount

The IRS recognizes Fair Observer as a section 501(c)(3) registered public charity (EIN: 46-4070943), enabling you to claim a tax deduction.

Make Sense of the World

Unique Insights from 2,500+ Contributors in 90+ Countries

Support Fair Observer

Support Fair Observer by becoming a sustaining member

Become a Member