The word of 2017 was Covfefe, the cry was ‘FAKENEWS!’ If he leaves his mark on nothing else, Donald Trump will have left his mark on the English language.
He has a penchant for innovating words. Derided by the liberal media as showing ignorance by doing that, it is in fact probably as much to do with his ethnic German background as it has to do with a lack of communication ability on his part.
So How Can One Man Have His Own Little Language?
Not liking his policies, I’m guilty of gleefully faulting him myself. People of an ethnic background tend to keep the syntax and some of the wording of their historic language. They can impose that on their use of the spoken language which they use.
An example is our most Irish if phrases ‘at all, at all’. This makes no sense in English, but perfect sense in Irish. It is derided by language purists as ‘dialect’ Hiberno English.
Me, Myself and Carty English!
I grew up in Offaly but my family are from North Longford. Not just Longford mind, but the North of it!!! Their regular use of dialectic words – which has more in common with Ulster English than the Queen’s English – rubbed off on me. This is something which has often led to confusion both in Offaly and even more so, here in Galway.
Use of phrases such as ‘upshot’ to summarise a long winded story, ‘clib’ for a fool (from the Gaelic, meaning ‘a ball of dung’), get raised eyebrows.
It’s a good thing I don’t use actual dialect words, such as ‘sheugh’ for ditch, or they really would be ‘clashing’ (Ulster Scots for ‘talking’ or ‘to speak’, used by us to say someone is ‘speaking for the sake of speaking’).
I often joke that I speak my own little language which I call ‘Carty English’ for fun.
Taking a serious look at the issue
A particular use of a language unique to an individual is known as an ‘idiolect’. Wags call ‘the way an idiot speaks’, which is funny in that both words have the same root though different meanings.
While it does not excuse the bile which emanates from Trump, it explains the creations he spontaneously comes up with while communicating his bile.
The school system, in trying to make us all sound educated, tries to tell us not to use dialect. We are to conform with establishment-speak. However I think we lose our character and identity as part of that – if we comply.
Dialect is a language if it has an army
If we are to class Hiberno English as a dialect, it should have the same protections as Ulster Scots and Irish. While the former is often contested as not being a language at all, or just a dialect of Lallans (Lowland Scots), is is recognised if not respected by all. The latter, having one lost dialect, and three existing ones, with Connaught Irish having a sub-dialect unique to Achill, is an actual official language.
The ‘curry me yogurt’ derision of Irish from Unionists in the North causes uproar. While portrayed as an expression of anti-Irishism, it is in fact a derision of the political purification of Irish to take out all traces of English from it, nicknaming what we are taught in school as ‘De Valera Irish’. It is a counter charge activists promoting Irish make of the Ulster Scots Agency that they took out all the Gaelic from the Ulster Scots official vocabulary. The language row over the proposed ‘Irish Language Act’ between Sinn Féin and the DUP rumbles on!
So, language is not just a means of communication, it is an expression of identity. Language tells a hidden history, and a idiolect like Trumps is a version of this, tells of his German background – the family possibly among themselves still speak a pigdin version of English with syntax similar to their original German – and wider society not understanding this, or being indoctrinated in conformity, cannot accept that.
Learning what NOT to say
It is Trump’s beliefs I object to, not his inventions or creative mangling of the English language which is about the only thing about him I find endearing.
Another noticeable thing about Trump is he managed to turn political correctness on its head, as for a long time not alone were we told how not to say things, but what not to say.
We do need to take a step back from where we are going.
Trump though, went even father. He has made his own version of political correctness of the Alt-Right kind, and published a set of words that officials cannot use!
It makes one wonder where all this is headed – politically. It makes linguists ponder where language itself is headed, and how much will be lost in translation while we speak a common language in the years to come?