Jim Baer: Words do matter, regardless of what Trump says on Twitter

For the Monitor
Published: 1/3/2019 12:30:05 AM

English language scholarship is in trouble. It is slowly drifting into a dark area where the undecipherable “smocking,” recently used by the president of the United States twice in the same “tweet,” was intended to convey a thought.

It is reasonable to expect official writings of the president to be comprehensible and lucid, particularly from a president self-described as a stable genius.

The president has a strong penchant for “tweeting.” His caustic and unpleasant remarks denigrating others only amplify his use of poor grammar in his “tweets.” His vocabulary and grammar are an embarrassment to himself and to the nation he serves.

A vocabulary rich in the use of English words that illuminate and expand a subject is being replaced with trite and meaningless words and phrases that question the character of the user and accelerate the corruption of the language.

There are over a quarter of a million distinctly English words in our common language. Some are arcane, some technical and a few, beautiful.

English is being diminished by lazy and slovenly words and phrases used by people who should know better, including the president.

The use of the following idioms, euphemisms, catachresis, crutch words and phrases should be given a one-way trip to the word dumpster:

“The fact of the matter is”

“It is what it is”

“At the end of the day”

“First and foremost”

“Whether or not”

“In the process of”

“In as much as”

“In actual fact”

“When all is said and done”

“Completely honest”

“Somehow”

“Witch-hunt”

“It’s a small world”

“At the present time”

“In order that”

“Felt like”

“Put to rest”

“Few and far between”

“Word to the wise”

“Needless to say”

“Last but not least”

All contribute to the diminution of the English language. Words do matter.

The president is mired in a pool of self pity, much of it of his own design. A less offensive vocabulary and belligerent attitude, and a more generous and kinder approach to governing, may be a better prescription than the vulgar “tweet” campaigns he is waging.

Unfortunately, he will not stop. His base loves it.

Elements of Style is a reference work and writing guide written by William Strunk Jr. devoted to the correct use of English grammar. It has been a valuable asset for serious writers since 1918. It was revised by E.B. White in 1959.

A copy is on its way to the White House, courtesy of a concerned citizen.

(Jim Baer lives in Concord.)




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