Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

This Verbal Tic Makes Trump Tick, Ok?

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

This Verbal Tic Makes Trump Tick, Ok?

Article excerpt

OK, fair warning, my subject today is Donald Trump, the large swaggering specter haunting the body politic. But this is not about his well-chronicled personal strengths that have brought him to political greatness, such as it is.

Many other commentators - some of them highly regarded conservatives in bow ties, OK? - have described his talent for boorishness, bragging, casual racism and insults of women and many others, all in the service of fanning popular resentments, inciting violence and proclaiming his serial falsehoods and general ignorance.

But to me his style says something about his substance, too, or lack thereof, and it all can be summed up in one word, OK? To my knowledge, nobody else has mentioned this.

Yet surely you have noticed his promiscuous use of the term "OK." There are ladies in blond wigs and hot pants standing on street corners who do not say OK as much as Mr. Trump on the stump.

Of course, the great man's context is different, but I have a feeling that the customers of each risk feeling sordid, shabby and ashamed when all is said and done.

OK has a long history. The most prominent theory has the expression dating to 1840 and the presidential re-election campaign of Martin Van Buren, a Democrat. Born of politics, it comes back to be put to a new political use.

In the big mouth of Mr. Trump, OK can be part threat, part assumption of common ground between speaker and spoken to and part invitation to listeners to accept something stupid as fact. Indeed, the term is usually wrapped around an assertion that is not OK to anybody who stops to think about it, an effort that Trump supporters apparently find difficult.

OK is not an illegitimate word by itself. It is just a shorthand version of signifying acceptance or asking whether everything is well. Other languages have their own version. Why, I say OK myself, when I am not using my favorite expression, "Lord, love a duck!" because ducks need love and the Lord is best placed.

But OK also lends itself naturally to the bullying and bellicose, because from their angry mouths it brooks no argument. …

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