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Saturday, January 28, 2017

Verbal Discontent


Comic errors count:

after Obama's lectures

tragedy arrived.

Mistakes of a certain kind evoke brief moments of laughter, and the English language is often a fine vehicle for vulgar laughter and regrettable mistakes.  The political tempest in the United States at the very beginning of 2017 has spun the word "trump" to new heights.  Everyone knows that "trump" functions as a noun and a verb in the context of card games, that when it is capitalized "trump" is a proper noun  and a brand.  Not many Americans, we can fairly guess, are aware of what "trump" as an intransitive verb denotes in British slang.  There the word takes us to the brink of scatology.

According to one website, "trump" in British slang means flatulence, "an audible discharge of flatus from a person's rectum, and its associated smell" (  To trump is to fart.  We can play a word game and combine this meaning with what "trump" as a transitive verb can mean: 1) to surpass or outdo and 2) to play a trump card in a card game.  Ordinary meaning and slang co-exist in linguistic harmony.  Nevertheless, their combination gives rise to verbal discontent.  Meek, genteel citizens are alarmed by the bawdy, the dirty underground implications.  Less pious citizens who care little to nothing about nuances in language are moved to scornful or nervous laughter. And citizens who are only functionally literate might ask what all the fuss is about and then cancel the opportunity for an answer by saying "Fuck it" or "Fuck you."  As far as contemporary political rhetoric is concerned, a significant number of Americans have embraced an Anglo-Saxon state of mind.

Some American citizens who know a bit of Shakespeare and a bit more of Swift may not be charmed by what we may be forced to recognize---Trump trumps quite too freely in public in the faces of his supporters and detractors and trumps many of our past presidents in trumping the American body politic.  So it has come to this.  Verbal discontent is just the higher frequency of deeper rumblings, the noises that signal inevitable political earthquakes in the United States of America.  In 2017, language is a complex metaphorical bitch.

Jerry W. Ward, Jr.                            January 28, 2017

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