Making the English Language Mediocre Again

Name the only president in American history whose words and grammar were worse than those of Donald J. Trump?

According to researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, that dubious distinction belongs to 43, otherwise known as George W. Bush.

Carnegie Mellon researchers say that presidential candidates “…routinely use words and phrases of students in grades 6-8.” Not The Donald. CMU academics say Trump’s vocabulary lags behind even those lowly standards.

But, there’s a method to Trump’s mangling madness, says Times Columnist Charles M. Blow, who described Trump’s Tweets as “…a jumble of incomplete thoughts stitched together with arrogance and ignorance.” His words. Not mine.

Trump’s short, and rambling, Tweets emphasize certainty and determination, built upon layer and layer, like (ironically) bricks in a wall,” wrote NYT CEO, Mark Thompson. “It’s a style that students of rhetoric call parataxis (Note to self: Call primary care doctor to see if I’ve been inoculated against this disease).

Thompson says parataxis is “….an age-old style used by generals and dictators alike who have used it to distinguish themselves from the caviling civilians they mean to sweep away.”

Yikes, I don’t know if I’m more perplexed by the phrase sweep away or the adjective caviling (Note: I must admit to having had to research the latter, which means whimpering or whining).

I’ll have to work that gem of a word into my next cocktail reception discussion with my fellow, long-suffering Jets fans (“C’mon, guys. Let’s admit it. We’re just a bunch of caviling cry babies.”). That’ll be right after I invoke the late Spiro T. Agnew’s description of the media as, “Nattering nabobs of negativity.”

What is it with Republicans and their contempt of mainstream media?

Regardless of the gibberish and double talk, Trump’s base eats up his Tweets, even if they’re:

– Inaccurate (“a U.S. Fleet is now steaming towards North Korea”)
– Contradictory (“I’m killing NAFTA”) only to be followed the very next day by (“Just had great talks with leaders of Canada and Mexico. Lots of room to negotiate NAFTA”).
– Or, flat out absurd (” My cabinet has probably the highest IQ of any cabinet in history”).

It’s one thing to mangle the English language. It’s quite another to use one’s barely understandable Tweets to bewilder friends and foes alike. That’s like playing Russian Roulette with the fragile stability of an unstable world.

What worries me most from a grammatical and spelling standpoint is the impact TrumpProse will have on our nation’s young people (who are already severely challenged when it comes to writing clear, concise, active sentences).

Mix in eight more years of Trump’s trashing of the language with another near decade of recent college graduates using text abbreviations in their client and management memos, and you’ve got all the ingredients necessary to return the proper use of the English language to a mix of prehistoric, cave man grunts and indecipherable slang.

It’s a real problem that I believe our nation’s colleges and universities have taken a pass on. I know my son, who is completing his Ph. D. while simultaneously teaching freshman history students, is absolutely appalled by the abysmal quality of the papers turned in by his students.

And, it’s only going to get worse with our nation’s commander-in-chief setting the example.

It makes one pine for the days when W. used to mangle his speeches with such memorable phrases as, “Fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.”

Where’s it all headed? Thoughts welcomed.

One thought on “Making the English Language Mediocre Again

  1. As an adjunct several years ago, many papers were on middle school level. In football terms, great writing skills are seen as a wide receiver who runs precise routes and has good footwork. It just does not excite potential employers – perhaps they mistakenly assume it’s a skill set all college grads have.