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Words Matter–And Why Trump Seems Not To Care

May 22, 2018

I live with a somewhat newly retired professor of languages.   At 45 he is a constant reminder of hanging participles, and other lapses in grammar.   In three languages! So it come as no surprise that the way Donald Trump talks and tweets is a cause for almost daily conversation in our home.    Which made this column a must read this morning. 

Martha Brockenbrough, founder of the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar, said that the president’s disregard for standard English plays into the public persona he has created for himself that he’s a man of the people, despite his billions.

“Grammatical conventions tend to be elitist and always have been,” said Brockenbrough. “The lack of regard for it, and the fact that he’s now having American tax dollars fund people to ape his style, is meant to poke people like you and me in the eye — people for whom language matters.”

Trump’s grammatical gaffes often spark rounds of online mocking — debates that Trump doesn’t mind having.

“If the political conversation is about Donald Trump’s typos, that plays into the narrative that the coastal elites don’t understand ordinary Americans who make typos,” said Stephen Farnsworth, a political science professor at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia. Farnsworth recently wrote a book on how presidents connect to supporters.

But the country’s most sophisticated guardians of language say there’s a more insidious motive for Trump’s disregard for the rules of English.

“The president’s use of language, like his White House, is chaotic. But that is not necessarily a problem in itself,” said Langdon Hammer, chairman of Yale University’s English Department. “It’s what he uses language for — the strategic interests served by his sloppiness.”

Hammer said that Trump’s particular style allows him “to speak vaguely, equivocate, insinuate, inflame, and intimidate.”

The consequence, according to Hammer: “He doesn’t treat speech as something to stand by and take responsibility for. Sad!”

2 Comments
  1. May 22, 2018 10:59 PM

    So…you were so riled up but had nothing to add for substance as to why you had such a reaction? Hmmm. Or are you now also against proper grammar? I have worked in radio and also in a legislative office and write grants—words matter and the proper way to write and talk matters. One would hope the person who sits in the Oval Office would care and set a good example.

  2. Steve Adams permalink
    May 22, 2018 2:50 PM

    another crackpot sounding off!

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