Tag Archives: Donald Trump

The Seven Forbidden Words

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No, not the ones George Carlin once observed could not be said on TV (but now are  commonly heard). These come from the Trump administration, which informed the Centers for Disease Control that the following words will not be acceptable when preparing the budget for 2018:

-Vulnerable

-Entitlement

-Diversity

-Transgender

-Fetus

-Evidence-based

-Science-based

The CDC is a scientific organization. Try writing for that organization without using the words on the list. If you remember the term “newspeak,” from George Orwell’s 1984,  you may be shuddering, as am I. Here is Merriam-Webster’s definition of newspeak:

propagandistic language marked by euphemism, circumlocution, and the inversion of customary meanings

 In other words, reshaping and restructuring language to suit political ends, and the truth be damned.
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Merriam Dictionary’s Word of the Year

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 SURREAL

bizarre: a surreal mix of fact and fantasy

Are we surprised? Interestingly, searches for this word peaked on November 9, the day after the presidential election.

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Trump’s Use of Language

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Full disclaimer: I am not and never was a supporter of Donald Trump. As much as I abhorred his style of campaigning and saw him as a misogynistic, racist, and cruel candidate (I cannot shake the image of him imitating a disabled reporter), I was always fascinated by his use of language. He usually spoke in very short sentences with a severely limited vocabulary, often in fragments, and repeated words and phrases many times in a row. He was far from a polished speaker, but I have no doubt his conversational style struck a chord with his audiences: he showed he was not above them, that he was at their level. He made them comfortable. Many poor, jobless, undereducated and uneducated people were able to relate to a New York City billionaire who attended an Ivy League school. Go figure.

The following items are far from a full analysis of his favorite words, just some that have stuck with me.

CLASSY: I built the Grand Hyatt right next to Grand Central Station —beautiful, classy job— but then the city denied my request to have the top 10 floors illuminated with my face at night. Can you believe that?

TERRIFIC: (About Obamacare): Repeal and replace with something terrific. (But no details were given.)

TREMENDOUS: I am worth a tremendous amount of money. I have had tremendous success.
(on Islam) There’s something there…there’s a tremendous hatred there.

HUGE (pronounced YUGE): It’s gonna be huge!

AMAZING: Yesterday was amazing—5 victories.

DANGEROUS: (on protesters at Trump speeches) They are really dangerous and they get in there and start hitting people.

TOUGH: Mike Tyson endorsed me. You know, all the tough guys endorse me. I like that. OK?

SMART: I’m, like, a really smart person.

MORON: (on Nelson Mandela’s funeral) What a sad thing that the memory of Nelson Mandela will be stained by the phony sign language moron who is in every picture at [the] funeral!

WE: (This indicates solidarity with his audiences. He is telling them what they believe and that he agrees with them.) We need to build a wall on the Mexican border. We are going to make Mexico pay for it.
We are going to make great trade deals.
We are going to bring back our jobs.
We will totally dismantle Iran’s global terror network.

THEY: (This word indicates “the other,” those who are in opposition.)  (on immigrants) They’re pouring in. They are bringing drugs, they are bringing crime.
The Mexican government is forcing their most unwanted people into the United States. They are, in many cases, criminals, drug dealers, rapists, etc.
(on poor people who become politicians) And I said to myself, if they can stay so poor for so many generations, maybe this isn’t the kind of person we want to be electing to higher office. How smart can they be? They’re morons.

LOSER: (on John McCain) I supported him, he lost, he let us down. But you know, he lost, so I’ve never liked him as much after that, because I don’t like losers…. He’s not a war hero…. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.

STUPID: I went to an Ivy League school. I’m highly educated. I know words. I have the best words, I have the best, but there is no better word than stupid. Right?

WINNING: We will have so much winning if I get elected that you may get bored with winning. Believe me. You’ll never get bored with winning. You’ll never get bored!

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Bigly?

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© Judi Birnberg  My Bigliest Painting

If you were among the 84 million people who watched Monday night’s presidential debate, you might have sat up straighter in your seat when Donald Trump announced, “I’m going to cut taxes bigly.” My posture suddenly improved as I yelped, “BIGLY?” Perhaps, as many now think, he meant to say “big league.” But he didn’t say that.

I then joined the  zillions of people googling “bigly” and discovered that it is, according to Kory Stamper, a linguist with Merriam-Webster, a word that dates to approximately 1400, when it was used to mean “with great force” or “boastfully.” Then “bigly” disappeared for a very long time, only to be curiously resurrected this past  Monday night.

I started thinking: If we do something “grandly,” “spaciously,” minutely,” or “microscopically,” then we could do something bigly. If we wanted to. I don’t want to. How about you?

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Sea Change

Signature of William Shakespeare from Page 3 o...

Signature of William Shakespeare from Page 3 of his Last Will and Testament. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As an undergraduate English major at UC Berkeley, it never occurred to me to be a STEM major. In fact, that acronym hadn’t been invented. It stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Word on the street today is that if you are not majoring in one of those areas you might as well crawl into a cave with your literature, philosophy  and history books and be happy and useless away from society. I contend that liberal arts majors have much to offer, even in today’s STEM-heavy environment: they are well rounded and can think and write clearly and logically.

Which brings me to Shakespeare. As a senior, I took a seminar with the best professor I ever encountered—as an undergraduate, graduate student or as an English teacher myself. (I’m talking about you, Joseph Kramer.) He once made the statement that any three lines of Shakespeare could be read as a microcosm of the world, and went on to demonstrate that point repeatedly and brilliantly.

Which brings me to today’s jargon. Recently I wrote about clichés and jargon that originated in Shakespeare’s plays. Of course they weren’t clichés at the time of their origin, but they did catch on. A more recent cliché, or bit of jargon, is “sea change.” I see it everywhere; no simple “changes” exist any more. They are all monumental, life-altering “sea changes.” If the price of oil were to drop five dollars a barrel, that would be a sea change. If Donald Trump were to fix him comb-over to the left rather than to the right, that would be a sea change. (If he were to remove the small animal that lives atop his head, I would grant that would truly be a sea change.)

The word originated in Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest.” Here is how he used it:

                                                    Full fathom five thy father lies,

                                                          Of his bones are coral made:

                                                   Those are pearls that were his eyes:

                                                          Nothing of him that doth fade,

                                                   But doth suffer a sea-change

                                                   Into something rich and strange.

We’ve lost the hyphen and also lost—or changed—the meaning. Until quite recently, “sea change” indicated an enormous transformation. Now, any old change will suffice. I wish the original meaning were still appreciated.  How long until someone writes about “an enormous sea change”?

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You’re Fired!

I have one good thing to say about Donald Trump, despite the fact that he is a pompous, arrogant, narcissistic bloviator who, because of his inflated ego, thinks people take him seriously.  I won’t even comment on the dead animal he wears on top of his head.  Or perhaps I just did.

Apparently, he has or had a TV show on which he told people, “You’re fired!”  I never watched it, but this I am told.  I’m sure barking those words gave him great pleasure, but it allows me to say the only good thing I can think of in Donaldland: he used truthful, direct language rather than jargon.

The euphemisms in the corporate world today are “downsizing,” “rightsizing,” engaging in an “RIF,” (reduction in force) and other hideous permutations that are thought to soften the blow when an employee is fired.

They fool no one.  I just wish someone were in a position to tell The Donald, “You’re fired!”

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