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Trump Talk

For some, it was hard to watch Donald Trump’s inauguration as president of the United States. There it was before our eyes: a new, inescapable reality that many of us will likely spend four years struggling to fully comprehend. If we were to make a list of everything about this that frightens, enrages and perplexes us, it might go on forever. But this is a blog about language, so let’s focus on that.

President Trump behaves unlike his predecessors in a number of ways, and his use of language is perhaps one of the most jarring. He’s made spelling mistakes on Twitter (talking about “unpresidented acts”, for example), he’s caused national debate about adverbs and adjectives with his use of the word “bigly” (or was it “big league”?) and at times it seems he just completely neglects syntax entirely, such as in the following “sentence” he uttered at a rally in South Carolina:

Look, having nuclear—my uncle was a great professor and scientist and engineer, Dr. John Trump at MIT; good genes, very good genes, OK, very smart, the Wharton School of Finance, very good, very smart—you know (…)

Having grown accustomed to the articulate speech of Obama over the past eight years, it is certainly difficult to adjust to the way Trump talks. But according to linguist John McWhorter, that’s just it: there’s a big difference between speaking and talking, and Trump seems to prefer the latter. What’s more, the majority of us probably sound a lot more like the new president than we’d care to admit, or so says McWhorter. Read his article here to find out more. Maybe if we can come to terms with this idea, these next four years will be easier on the ears. Then again, maybe not.

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