It has become the most searched-for word on a US dictionary site this week. From Trump’s dealings with Russia to May’s handling of Brexit – is it really right to call everything you disagree with treasonous?
‘If it prosper,” wrote the Elizabethan courtier John Harington, “none dare call it treason.” They dare now. After Donald Trump cooed that “President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial” that Russia had interfered in his election, the cry of “treason” went up among Republicans and Democrats, and the word became the most-searched-for on the website of US dictionary Merriam-Webster.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, treason (or “high treason”) means “violation by a subject of his allegiance to his sovereign or to the state”. It remains to be seen whether Trump’s alleged treason will be proved legally, but few in our febrile times can await such verdicts. In an era when everyone feels betrayed by something, crying treason is all the rage.