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Donald Trump’s insult politics

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Political commentators and satirists love to mock Donald Trump’s verbal gaffs, his simplified vocabulary and vague, boastful speech. But if you judge his oratory by its effect on the audience, Donald Trump’s rhetoric, particularly with large crowds of enthusiastic supporters, is undeniably effective. People have studied the art of rhetoric for millennia – so how does a style that runs counter to all established advice work so well? His use of simple vocabulary and repetition help him connect with listeners. But central to Trump’s style is his use of catchy insults that foster an easy us-them mentality, with Trump and his fans on one side and basically everyone else on the other. Donald Trump’s stylistic loadstar is the nickname, often composed of a target’s first name and an adjective. In 2016 there was Lyin’ Ted and Crooked Hillary. As the Trump administration has gone forward and the 2020 election is on the horizon we find the president tweeting about Crazy Bernie and Sleepy Joe. Biden was also, in the wake of reports of his handsy campaign style, Sleepy Creepy Joe. It’s not just potential candidates who get tagged with adjectives: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is Crazy Nancy and the Senate minority leader is Cryin’ Chuck Schumer. Former aid Steve Bannon gets the alliterative Sloppy Steve and Omarosa Manigault becomes Wacky Omarosa. Barack Obama gets the last-name treatment as Cheatin’ Obama, probably not so much out of deference but out of the difficulty of finding an adjective that works well with Barack. Former FBI director James Comey is referred to as Leakin’ James Comey, Lyin’ James Comey, and of course Leakin’ Lyin’ James Comey. Physicality is also an element of the Trump style. Trump is a big fellow, except perhaps—famously—for his hands. According to his physician, Trump is 6’ 3” and 243 pounds. People who cross him become little or “liddle”: Little Marco Rubio, Liddle Bob Corker or Liddle Adam Schiff or, for Kim Jong-Un, Little Rocket Man (Lil’ Kim. . .

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News source: Linguistics – OUPblog

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