Mr Trump's manner of speaking

Mr Trump's language has been much criticized.  It is said to be disjointed, illogical and to ignore all rules of English grammar.  Against that, it has just won the man the Presidency of the United States.  What is going on?

Various people have noted some strengths in the way Trump communicates.  For instance, he uses very simple words and simple sentences.  He repeats himself a lot so that you will be sure to get his point.  But there is more to it than that.  For a start he uses concepts that have a lot of emotional power -- patriotism and safety from danger in particular.

Most important of all, however, he speaks not as a polished intellectual but as a man of the people.  He speaks like a welder or a farmer or a burger flipper.  Yet he has a degree in economics and has long moved in the most exalted circles.  How come he speaks in such a strange way for his background?

I think it is partly learned.  A couple of Australian examples are, I think, enlightening.  Bob Hawke was one of Australia's most popular Prime Ministers. He had been a Rhodes scholar and came from an educated family.  Yet in his speeches he always spoke with a broad Australian accent and used a lot of slang and colloquial expressions.  Like Trump, he sounded like a worker, though he was nowhere nearly as disjointed as Trump.

So it was very amusing when he retired.  When interviewed after his retirement, he would speak in an educated way -- both in accent and in vocabulary.  He had been "putting it on" as Australians say.  He had been pretending to be what he was not.

So where did he learn to do that?  He had long involved himself in the union movement.  And a lot of unionists were genuine working class people.  Over the years, Hawke had learned to model his speech on theirs so that he would seem "One of us".  It worked.  It got him the Prime ministership of Australia for eight years.

Another instructive example was a long-serving Premier of the Australian state of Queensland:  Sir Johannes Bjelke Petersen.  Sir Joh's speech was even closer to Trump's speech:  Very similar indeed.   He also had a messy speech delivery that the elite all dismissed as being beyond  comprehension.  Journalists and others claimed it was just impossible to understand what he was saying.  But Joh was a farmer and he spoke like a farmer, not like an educated man. And ordinary farmers and working people generally understood him just fine.  He kept getting their vote and ended up running Queensland for nearly 20 years -- from 1968 to 1987. So who was the fool?

The Honourable Sir Johannes Bjelke-Petersen, KCMG

Trump comes from the opposite end of the socio-economic scale from Sir Joh so how come he talks in a working class manner?  He grew up in the Queens borough of NYC, which is a very diverse place so he would have heard working class speech there pretty often and it would have become part of normality for him.  He knew how to speak that way if he wanted to.

And he has always had a hands-on attitude to his building projects and has often been on site talking to the workers doing the building.  So it would seem that his conversations with them have reinforced a liking not only for them and their views but also for some of their speech patterns.  Their patterns became his patterns. And those speech patterns sound to large numbers of Americans as "like us".  Powerful stuff. He talks to the people in their own language. His accent is New York Queens and that too conveys an image of the blunt, no-nonsense New Yorker.

So on those two Australian precedents, Trump should easily get his second term in office.

No comments:

Post a Comment

All comments containing Chinese characters will not be published as I do not understand them