There’s a lot of arguing about words in the aftermath of Jan. 6’s events at the U.S. Capitol. Was it an insurrection, a riot, an attack, or a coup d’etat?
The term “coup d’etat” is, according to my faithful desk dictionary (Webster’s New Twentieth Century), is “a sudden, forceful stroke in politics,” and Jan. 6’s event was certainly that. It didn’t qualify for the second part of the definition, “especially the sudden, forcible overthrow of the government.” But it was obviously sudden and forceful.
The word “coup” in French is literally a blow. So a coup d’etat is a blow to the state. The stunned reactions lingering for so many people show the similarity to being hit. So it’s “a failed coup” or “a coup attempt” in the sense that the government was not changed (or, depending on your point of view, was allowed to change in two weeks). But without that “especially” part of the definition, it still works to call what happened a coup.
I won’t get into the politics of it all today any further. I just want to be here as usual, to clarify the words for you.
After all, we need the words to keep talking.
Margaret Serious has a page on Facebook.