A friend sent me a very interesting New York times article (How to Listen to Donald Trump Every Day for Years) on the weekend. It was written by John McWhorter, who is an associate professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia.
He talked about Trump’s “choppy, rambling, self-expression” and went on to explain that it’s “not so exotic” and that “a great many thoroughly intelligent people talk more like Donald Trump than they might know.” McWhorter calls it “talking” rather than “speaking” and his explanation of the difference between the two is fascinating.
But it was when he said that it’s been a long time coming that my interest was really piqued:
“What’s new,” he wrote, “is that someone who talks like this in public has become the president of the United States.” But “it was only a matter of time” because “America’s relationship to language has become more informal by the decade since the 1960’s, just as it has to dress, sexual matters, culinary habits, dance and much else.”
Of course, McWhorter is absolutely right.
Back in the dark ages when I was a child women never wore pants, they were always in dresses, suits or skirt and sweater “sets.” My mother wore a hat and gloves to go to lunch with her friends. For that matter, I had little white leather wrist-length gloves.
The first time I was ever on an airplane was when I was nine years old and went on a holiday with my parents. All the men, including my father, wore suits with white shirts and ties. The women looked just like the women in the photo; and even I had a dress on.
We dressed for the occasion. These days we “undress” for it.
Nowadays anything goes — including rubber flip-flops and bathing suits under thigh-high sheer gauzy slip dresses and baggy shorts and T-shirts for the guys. God forbid anyone should have to waste even a couple of minutes changing before heading to the beach.
When I first started to work there was no such thing as “casual” days. Jeans were absolutely forbidden. I never called any of my bosses by their first name, it simply wasn’t done; and, frankly, it would never have entered anyone’s mind.
Everyone said “please” and “thank you.” Men held doors open for women. Parents, teachers, elders were respected. We didn’t “talk back.”
And then it all started to go to hell in a hand basket.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for informality and comfort. But I do sometimes think we’ve gone too far. The Trump era, however, has taken it to notches unknown. We’re really in for it now.
Welcome to the age of incoherence, boors and lies.