Tuesday, September 29, 2020

A long-overdue English lesson for the Great Gasbag

Apr 24. 2018
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Donald Trump has a homonym problem. Lest malicious readers infer that this is some sort of sexual deviancy, let me assure you that homonyms are simply words that sound the same but are spelled differently and have different meanings.

Common examples are “your” and “you’re”,  “here” and “hear”, and “there”,  “their” and “they’re”. Recently the Great Gasbag posted a tweet referring to the Special Council when he meant the Special Counsel. This despite his boast that he had attended the finest universities.  

We expect seventh graders to make mistakes like this, but not the most powerful entity in the known universe with the possible exception of LeBron James. I can imagine dialogues like this:

Trump (over the phone, to General John Kelly, White House Chief of Staff): Hey, John! How do you spell “counsel”? 

Kelly: Which one, Mr President?

Trump: What do you mean, which one? How many are there?

Kelly: Well, there’s at least two, sir. There’s “council”, which is a noun meaning a body of people, and there’s “counsel”, which is a verb meaning to advise.

Trump: This one is talking about a special counsel.

Kelly: Ah, that’s a legal usage. It’s spelled like the verb, ending “s-e-l”, but it’s actually a noun meaning an adviser.

Trump: What the devil..? How can they do that?

Kelly: Sir, English is a complex language. But why do you ask?

Trump: Some twit has written to a newspaper in Thighland criticising me for confusing “council” and “counsel”.

Kelly: Sir, I believe you mean Thailand. The “h” is silent, sir.

Trump: Whatever. Say, how did you get so smart, Kelly?

Kelly: Sir, I had a good English teacher. And I read.

Trump:  Oh. 

Kelly: Anything else, sir? Anything important? Like, questions about how to avoid impeachment or nuclear war? Or how to save dying oceans or control your mouth?

Trump: No, no, that’s enough. Thank you, John. (Hangs up.) I’ll be darned. If he’s so smart, maybe I won’t fire him after all.

Ye Olde Pedant

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