A professor recently claimed that the way President Donald Trump formulates his sentences raises concern that he may be unfit to fulfill his duties as president of the United States – all just months after he defended “Black English” as an “alternate form” of the language.
John McWhorter, a linguistics professor at Columbia University, pointed out how Trump’s grammatical and spelling mistakes disqualify him from serving as commander-in-chief, in an op-ed for The Atlantic. McWhorter further stated that Trump’s informal style “betray[s] his lack of fitness for the presidency.”
“Trump’s writing suggests not just inadequate manners or polish – not all of us need be dainty – but inadequate thought. Nearly every time he puts thumb to keypad, he exposes that he has never progressed beyond the mentality of the precollegiate, trash-talking teen,” McWhorter wrote.
The Columbia University professor admitted that not all who make writing mistakes are automatically dull-minded. McWhorter did claim, however, that Trump has a “general disregard of norms, details, and accuracy.”
McWhorter then took the liberty to compare Trump to former president Harry Truman, a man whose spelling also deterred from the high society of his time. However, according to McWhorter, Truman took the necessary precautions to spell correctly, and even used dictionaries to double-check the spelling of certain terms. The professor elaborated by recounting a time when Truman wrote a letter to his wife and carefully wrote out words using a dictionary.
“Truman, writing to a loved one, wanted to get the word ‘dictionary’ right; Trump, writing to the entire nation, is happy with a half-dozen flubs in one terse tweet. The sheer lack of focus on Trump’s part, and by extension, the staff who should be vetting messages like this, is stunning,” McWhorter wrote.
McWhorter also compared Truman to Trump through the lens of each president’s pastime activities.
He recounted a story in which Truman, despite hating operas, attended a showing of a famous one. According to McWhorter, because Trump does not elevate himself through the arts, he is growing idler by the day.
“However, you only go around once, and Truman had a basic desire to experience something beyond himself and the ordinary – to grow. Trump – have we ever seen him even tap his foot to music or give any sign of enjoying it? – doesn’t learn from what is around him; he does not grow. A president should,” McWhorter continued.
Other grammatical issues of Trump’s writing that McWhorter pinpointed included Trump’s signature use of the word “very,” as in “very happy,” as well as his lack of including powerful verbs where they should be present, such as “call a national emergency” instead of to “declare” one.
In a seeming contradiction to his dissection of Trump’s speech, however, McWhorter previously wrote an article on “Black English,” excusing the informal, abbreviated dialect that certain parts of the black population in the U.S. use, and denied any eventual degradation of the English language through the continued validation of the dialect.
“One source of the objection could be an impression that Black English is bad grammar. That notion is tragically common, and under it, many may suppose that even if black people do use Black English, it’s a bad habit, a legacy of lack of access to education, perhaps,” McWhorter wrote.
“Black English, however, is not a degraded variety of the language – it’s an alternate form of English.”