Sad! Pathetic! Fake News!
Have those words crept — burst! — into your vocabulary in the past couple of years?
Any president has an impact on public rhetoric. But the influence of what I'll call Trumptalk, derived from the president's frequent tweets, may be even more communicable.
Sarcastic nicknames! Punchy phrases! Staccato sentences! Exclamation points scattered like bowling pins! We all talk like that now!
Even if — or perhaps precisely because — his tweets can be fragmented and ungrammatical, they are taken as signs of authenticity, from a president who reportedly tweets while watching Fox and Friends in his bathrobe.
But this week, Annie Linskey of The Boston Globe reports that several West Wing staffers also craft tweets for the president. But they try to approximate his style by writing sentence fragments, grammatical errors, and capital letters that sprout, seemingly by chance, like dandelions in a meadow.
"Tweets that are proposed are in his voice," an unidentified staffer told the Globe. "You want to do it in a way that fits his style."
And if pundits, journalists and talking heads point out errors, White House staffers insist it just confirms the president as a man of the people who isn't confined by such restraints as grammar, spelling and politeness.
It's irresistible to reflect on how history might have been enlivened if leaders of the past had been able to tweet in a style similar to President Trump's.
Abraham Lincoln might tweet in April of 1861:
"Crooked Confederates bomb Ft. Sumter. Not good!"
Brutus on March 15, 44 BC — or however they said BC when they could not have known they were BC — could tweet:
"I was nowhere near Caesar when he went down fast and hard on Senate floor. Special Roman Counsel Investigation already shows: NO COLLUSION!!!"
Ulysses S. Grant might tweet in 1864:
"Little Robert E Loser's cannonballs couldn't Shoot through a Burlap Sack. My Cannonballs Button is much bigger and more powerful and my Button works!"
The Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt might have thumbed:
"Fake News Book of Exodus says if we don't let Israelites Go, we'll be hit by Frogs, Lice, Boils, Hail, and Locusts. Cryin' Moses! Empty threats!"
Imagine a John F. Kennedy inaugural tweet:
"Ask Not what your country can do for you. Ask What can a new Tax Bill do for Me?"
And Cotton Mather, the Puritan Minister, could have tweeted in the 1690s:
"20 witches Tried and Down! This is the Greatest Witch Hunt in History!"