Turncoat – Friday’s Word of the Day


Today’s timely word of the day from Dictionary.com is Turncoat. A turncoat is “a person who changes to the opposite party or faction, reverses principles, etc.; renegade.” I do believe we have witnessed a recent surge of turncoats. It’s been entertaining to say the least.

According to Dictionary.com: There are several possibilities for the origin of turncoat. One is that two English barons in
the early 13th century changed fealty to King John (c1167-1216), literally changing their coats of arms from one lord to another. Another is that during the siege of Corfe Castle (1645) during the English Civil Wars (1642-51), Oliver Cromwell’s soldiers turned their coats inside out to match the colors of the Royalist army. A similar expression “to wear the King’s coat”, dating from the mid-19th century, means “serve in the King’s army”. The now obsolete idiom “to be in someone else’s coat” dating from the mid-16th century, meant the modern “to be in someone else’s shoes”. Turncoat entered English in the 16th century. 

Wikipedia provided a nice list of turncoat events. It is interesting to note that being a turncoat is not necessarily seen as a bad thing, which distinguishes a turncoat from being a traitor. The following lists a few circumstances that would be considered the actions of a “turncoat”:

  • In groups, often driven by one or more leaders, such as a mass shift by a population taking place during a military occupation, revolution, social upheaval, etc .
  • When the goal that formerly motivated and benefited the person becomes (or is perceived as having become) either no longer feasible or too costly even if success is achieved.

And as mentioned, here are a few notable events that fit that description:

  • The English Civil War during the 17th century. The siege of Corfe Castle was won by Oliver Cromwell’s soldiers when they turned their coats inside out to match the colours of the Royal army.
  • During the revolution of the British American colonies when U.S. Continental Army Major General Benedict Arnold defected to the side of the British in May 1779.
  • Canada during the War of 1812. Some Canadians felt republican democracy was a better system of government than the British Monarchy and fought on the side of the invading Americans. Conversely the United Empire Loyalists left what was to be the United States and moved North to remain under British rule.
  • Germany and Austria after World War II when many former enthusiastic members of the Nazi Party embraced the newly created nations of West Germany or East Germany and sought to erase or at least minimize their former role as Nazis. During the decades that followed many former Nazis regained prestige and held high posts in the new republics. Kurt Waldheim, an Austrian Nazi, even held the highest post at the UN for a while.
  • France after the downfall of the Vichy Regime, when many collaborationists, whether home-grown fascists or Nazi sympathizers, played down their role in the former government and its institutions.
  • Iran after the overthrow of the last Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi’s regime. At that time many persons who had formerly led a life based on secular and liberal values and who had fervently supported the Iranian monarchy suddenly embraced the stern religious values imposed by Ayatollah Khomeini’s regime with unbridled fervor.
  • Russia and the former Communist Eastern European countries after the fall of the USSR, where many former communists suddenly became fervent supporters of capitalism. As a result, many former apparatchiks abandoned the Communist Party in favor of positions in the new government structures.
  • In Spain after the Spanish Civil War(1936–1939), and again during the Spanish transition to democracy (1975 onwards).

It is also interesting to note that in the aftermath of the actions of a turncoat, there may be an attempt to rewrite history, burying the past by concealing evidence, or by whitewashing the deeds of the renegade’s activity.  Alternative facts, fake news, deep/dark states, loyalty pledges, gas lighting? My oh my, but this is a timely little word!  I chose to write an “Alphabet Haiku” for you. (Meaning each word starts with the same letter). Have a great weekend!

tick tock turncoats talk
trumping terrible tweets through
titillating truths


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