Reading Between Lines: The Meaning of Trump’s Trumpisms
Please note that this is an article about language and was NOT written to criticize, incite, or imply any political message. It is merely observational and meant for general interest.
Currently, it’s near on impossible to get through a single news program without even the slightest mention of Donald Trump in some way or another. Every day there is a new story or opinion, or something that highlights current events in the White House. One item we, as language lovers, like to focus on though, is vocabulary and the power of words; in this particular case, Trump’s vocabulary and choice of words. Join us as we delve into the world of Trumpisms, how they are perhaps influencing our daily language.
Don’t think Trump Vocabulary is a thing and that maybe we’re exaggerating? Look it up. Type those two words into your search engine of choice, and you’ll be hit by over 17 million hits. A good amount of them are genuine – and we’ll use that term loosely of course – journalistic articles, another bunch are listicles, and further still are, unfortunately, just mocking. Pushing all political views aside, one thing we don’t believe in as people who love language, is ridiculing the words people use to speak.
Using your words
So what are these Trumpisms? Well, we have tremendous, which is a catch-all for ‘big’ things such as a lot of information, a great amount of things, a huge waste of, etc. Fake has become synonymous with things he disagrees with, or things he doesn’t like, the biggest one being news. Disgrace appears to be used for anything that is ‘against’ him, to win is to achieve, weak seems to be anyone who doesn’t hold the same views, and losers are those without egos, or those who only thrive on seeing other people fail.
Two of the phrases Trump does, or has used, that he receives the most unkind attention for, are ones that are belittling his accent. Trump pronounces huge more like yooge, which is fairly common pronunciation for New Yorkers; you’ll also hear the same from Bernie Sanders. But the one that we focus on most is bigly, which is actually him saying big league, and okay, when he’s using it as an adjective or adverb mid-sentence, it does make make us wince, but you can’t say that the word hasn’t now become a part of our language; even if it is used disparagingly!
The biggest criticism of Trump’s vocabulary, is that it is limited. He doesn’t wax lyrical in poetical verse, he rarely says anything that truly sticks in your mind as profound, and so much of what he does say, uses the most basic of terminology, that even those without much interest in politics can understand. Which, perhaps, is very, very clever.
We have spoken recently about the trends in science and Business English of using complex, technical words instead of more widely-known ones, which leaves those outside of those ‘specialisms’ feeling excluded, perhaps even a little stupid. Whether intentional or not, Trump’s choice of words does mean anyone can understand him. You might not like what he’s saying, but you don’t have to listen to one of his speeches with a dictionary to hand to figure out what he’s trying to say.
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Of course, there are those amongst us who feel Trump is far more clever than he’s given credit for being. It is fair to say he is artful in his use of persuasive language, and perhaps using simple vocabulary is part of his political strategy for getting more people involved – more people to listen to him. Think about it; if you’re dealing with something you don’t necessarily understand too well, are you going to listen to the person using complicated terminology for simple things, or the one that is speaking your language and making complex things seem simple?
We’ll just hop across the pond for a minute to look at another politician that is often mocked for his language (and other things). Boris Johnson has literally been called a bumbling idiot by many, because despite his obvious intelligence, some of the things that come out of his mouth sound anything but. Two of our favourite quotes are: “My chances of being PM are about as good as the chances of finding Elvis on Mars, or my being reincarnated as an olive.” And, “My policy on cake is pro having it and pro eating it.” (which we agree wholeheartedly with, by the way, so that isn’t dumb at all).
Johnson clearly isn’t stupid; he won scholarships for both Eton and Oxford, excelling in English and Classics, so he knows what he’s doing with his language. Which brings us back to Trump; both of these politicians know precisely what they are saying when they use the words they do. We may not agree with their political views, but that doesn’t mean anything that they are saying is necessarily dumb.