Earlier this week I came across the word “coronate” in a comment and, in my unbounded paranoia, suspected the commenter was a native Russian speaker, possibly a member of the foreign propaganda corps or a volunteer auxiliary. He wrote about the American establishment’s myopic readiness to “coronate” Hillary Clinton.
Logically speaking, the writer’s mother tongue, assuming it was not English, could have been one of a dozen European languages – compare koronovat’ (Russian), (u)koronować (Polish), (in)coronare (Italian), coronar (Spanish). I went for Russian for extralinguistic reasons.
The verb “coronate” sounds like a needless back-formation from “coronation.” Paul Brians of Washington State suggests that “coronate” should only be used as an adjective. Patricia T. O’Conner and Stewart Kellerman of Grammarphobia write:
At a coronation, an archbishop “crowns” a king or queen; he does not “coronate” one – at least not in the opinion of most English speakers.
The Oxford English Dictionary does indeed include “coronate” as a verb meaning to crown, but it labels the usage rare. More important, the citations listed in the OED have nothing to do with royal coronations.
This morning, I looked through Steve Bannon’s interview with the Wall Street Journal and – bang! –
They were ready to coronate Hillary Clinton.
Is it Trump-speak perhaps? No. Merriam-Webster’s entry on the word has a priceless comments section replete with examples from the mainstream US and UK press. Do it yourself: search the New York Times for “coronate” and “Trump” via Google, like this. It should bring up an article from 2012 and a few from 2014-16. Moreover, you will find the paper’s own “editor for standards,” Philip Corbette, disparaging the Times‘ authors for using “coronate” instead of “crown,” in 2012 and then in 2014.