In the Suburbs / Looking toward a ‘language of resistance’
The year 2017 brought us a new “president,” or is that “precedent”? And that president has created a whole new vocabulary of Trumpisms that has given this country much to laugh about, get angry about and protest about. Separately, I learned from several of my colleagues, there have been other new vocabulary words outside the presidency that have made 2017 memorable, as well.
I thought it might be fun to reflect on a few of these words that have carved out new linguistic structure in 2017. I’m sure you will find some very familiar and some very unfamiliar. Seeing those words might help us understand how our country has managed under the yoke of Trump this past year.
Two words, for instance, defined the Trump presidency, according to a new poll conducted by Quinnipiac University here in Connecticut. The poll “surveyed adults across the United States and found 53 percent of voters first thought of the word ‘idiot’ when describing the president. Meanwhile, 44 voters described Trump as a “liar” and 36 said he was “incompetent.”
“Among those more sympathetic to the former reality star, 35 thought of the word ‘leader’ and another 35 said ‘strong.’ Other words suggested by 19 or more people” (excuse my language) included ‘a***hole,’ ‘great’ and ‘moron,’ ” (the last one allegedly coined by Trump’s secretary of state. The survey also found other words that voters used, including egotistical, ignorant, unqualified and businessman.
Early in the new year, the president coined the words “fake news” to cast doubt on the news media’s credibility. And when he spoke about the wall he hopes to build across the border between Mexico and the United States, Trump referred to the proposed structure as “very very very Yuge (Trump’s version of huge),” giving new meaning to his exaggerations.
Another of my favorites is the president’s answer to questions about when decisions will be made. He generally promises an answer or a decision “in a couple of weeks.” We’ve spent a good part of the year waiting for the “couple of weeks” that never quite arrived.
One of our new vocabulary terms for 2017 is “travel ban,” as in the one finally approved by the Supreme Court. Sadly, there are even issues with this version.
And with the investigation of Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, we’ve been introduced to a whole new set of vocabulary words like possible collusion and obstruction of justice. Neither has escaped the Trump tweet storm.
On the weekend following the president’s inauguration, when the huge women’s protest marches took place in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere, we were introduced to pussy hats, which became the trademark of the women’s protests.
After the Charlottesville, Va., protest about the removal of a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee by white supremacists, that term, along with the term racists, is now part of our vocabulary.
Lately, a new/old term has crept into our 2017 vocabulary — sexual harassment. Beginning with allegations about movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s inappropriate behavior, the term has come back to haunt countless other celebrities, politicians, teachers and clergymen, along with our president.
In terms of non-Trumpian words shared by my colleagues, there are many general words that have become part of the pop culture of 2017. Here are just a few, mostly provided by one of my college colleagues. . One example was using the acronym for Rest in Peace (RIP) sarcastically in situations that aren’t really death related. Another — one I didn’t recognize — was to use the word “mad” instead of “really” or a lot. For example, she spoke about people saying that they are “mad” tired (really) or there are “mad” — a lot — of textbooks to check in.
She said low-key and high-key have become overused terms in 2017.
In a piece from The Guardian, “Donald Trump is Changing Our Language. We Need a Vocabulary of Resistance,” authors Michelle Moyd and Yuliya Komska said, “Trump’s speech — redundant, formulaic, aggressive, ‘post literate’ — is everywhere. The language of resistance, by contrast, doesn’t exist. … For months, the opposition’s English has absorbed Trump’s idiom by the mouthful, from ‘nasty woman’ to ‘grab a pussy.’
“In a famous 1946 essay, author George Orwell recommended ‘starting at the verbal end to change the course of events. This can be a silver lining of the Trump years. Because finding a language of resistance doesn’t take linguists or writers. It takes citizens who grasp ... the importance of this foremost ‘political instrument, means and proof of power.”
I couldn’t agree more, and I only hope that citizens begin to carve that language of resistance in 2018.
Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his “In the Suburbs” appears each Friday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.