Carroll County Times
Carroll County Times Opinion

Minnich: President Trump's war of one-syllable words

President Trump is very, very right on one thing: The press has been very, very unfair with him.

We keep asking him questions, and then we post his responses, which makes him look, well, coarse.


If the world media — it’s not just the American press that seems to be showing the presidential warts — would show the respect that Trump and his shrinking base thinks he is due, we’d at least paraphrase unpresidential vitriol or punch up the vocabulary of the American head of state so it sounds less like the schoolyard taunts of fifth-grade boys.

London’s Mayor, Sadiq Kahn, was asked about the American president’s contributions to peace and tranquility in Europe. Like other beleaguered leaders there, Kahn said Trump is, “just one of the most egregious examples of a growing global threat,” whose comments “echo those of the fascist of the 20th Century.”


Offense was taken, of course. It was nothing that has not been said by most Democrats and a growing number of independents here and abroad, but Trump could have responded with humor or silence. Well, silence might be a reach. But with humor.

The best humor is that which you intend to be humorous, as opposed to that which is merely laughable. If you’re going to make a riposte with wit, you should at least be armed with a vocabulary up to the task.

Alas, the offending mayor used words like “egregious,” which contains at least one more syllable than Trump normally has at his disposal. Kahn also referred to concepts like fascism and history — the last century — which requires deeper contemplation than the 140-word world of tweets.

So instead of keeping his silence, the face of American class opened and out came this: The mayor of London is, “a stone-cold loser who reminds me very much of our very dumb and incompetent mayor De Blasio of NYC who has done a terrible job only he’s half his height.”

He could have added, “And your mother wears army boots. Your father wears pink pants.” Those were big when many of us were in the third grade. Insults are always a mark of sophisticated repartee.

“Very stone-cold loser” sounds like something out of the 1960s. Not very original.

And they teach you in freshman English that using a word twice in a single sentence shows a lack of command of essential writing skills.

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But when one has a vocabulary that is apparently limited to about 160 words, you tend to get a lot of mileage out of the inventory. So, you use “Very, very” a lot, usually without the comma: “Very very bad. Very very unfair. Very very terrible.”


Repetition also drives the idea home.

When asked by another reporter if it’s good that the American-born actress Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, is now a member of the British royal family, Trump replied with all the sophistication of a connoisseur of the American sport of cage wrestling: “I think it’s nice. I think it’s nice. I’m sure she will do excellently. She’ll be very good. She’ll be very good. I hope she does.”

Impressive in that use of four syllables with “excellently.”

Okay, so it lacks polish. We can excuse that, because we’re Americans and we like to think our directness and lack of artifice makes up for rough edges in other areas, like education and common courtesy.

Those who make excuses for Trump consider his flaws proof of his genuineness; his lack of social skills and crude remarks are nothing less than candor. His intransigence and tendency to ignore expert advice on diplomacy, law or international economic impacts of his impulsive policies are welcome displays of boldness and decisive leadership.

To quote an often-used presidential response to the unknown, “We’ll see what happens. Who knows, but we’ll see what happens.”