Rambling Anecdote, Personal Imagery, Secular Epiphany and Powerless Rant -- My opportunity to express my opinion, whether anyone ever listens or not. Instant gratification, another two-word phrase.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

So Very

Vocabulary is how we discriminate meaning. By this, I believe that we cannot communicate ideas for which we have no words. "So" and "Very" scream "I don't think clearly enough to find the word which expresses my ideas."
     So hard or diligently, enthusiastically, arduously, indefatigably, fervently, zealously. Shades of meaning.
     I ran a readability analysis on Donald Trump's acceptance speech. It scored very high on readability at 77.9%. Depending on the chosen scale, the grade level was from 3.2 to 7.9. No wonder so many non-college voters chose him; they could understand him. His sentences are actually often longer than one might expect because he believes in "and so," anathema to English teachers everywhere, but firmly ingrained in unrehearsed oral language. "And so" and the consequent run-ons engendered keep the speaker in control of speech. Other transitions usually emerge in written language because it is reflective, not in the moment. As an English teacher, I could always recognize first draft writing from its "and so's."
     I also completed a stylistic analysis of the diction and syntax of Donald Trump's acceptance speech and it was revelatory. The surface conciliatory tone was embedded firmly in its syntax. This was a "we"speech, not so much an "I" speech. Many of the "I" sentences come appropriately in the various commendations to specific family, friends, and supporters. At a syntactical level, Trump focused on the unity for which we all hoped.
     Unfortunately the best sentence in the speech was probably the only sentence read from the teleprompter: "We will seek common ground, not hostility; partnership, not conflict." Yes, that is a semicolon, not an "and so." It may be stretching the rhetorical device to label it antanagoge (places a criticism and a compliment together to lessen the impact, as in "The car is not pretty but it runs great."), but I will give his speech writer that. 
     The off-teleprompter sentences are casual and superficial, simple and imprecise -- "I mean that very sincerely." "I have gotten to know our country so well." "It is going to be a beautiful thing." "We have a great economic plan." "We will have great relationships." "We expect to have great, great relationships." "We are going to dream of things for our country, and beautiful things, and successful things once again." "It is going to happen." "This was tough. This political stuff is nasty, and it is tough." "They're tough and they're smart and they're sharp."
     The imprecise diction of this passage is befuddling. A student had to negotiate using the word very. Find the precise word. Think, then use your words. So can only be used as a conjunction, not as an adverb. No, Hell No, to the following -- "very, very hard," "very, very special," "a very, very historic victory," "so long," "so well," and "really very proud." "Thing" is Taboo.
     Intensifiers also disguise imprecise language and muddled, lazy thinking. Not "tremendously talented," but rather "accomplished," "adept," "proficient," or "ingenious." No to "tremendous potential." No to "truly great" and "learned so much." No to "really fantastic."
     Adults are not teenagers on Twitter. Adults do not get to use the word "unbelievable" and pretend it means believable.
     Yes, Donald, you would have hated my class, but you should have been there. If you had learned what I am sure someone tried to teach you, you would have respected this country enough to have honored us with careful thought.
     And from your own words -- "Boy, oh, boy, oh, boy. It's about time you did this right. My god."
     My god.

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