This post continues into April.
President Trump’s use of Twitter is an endlessly fascinating and terrifying subject. He uses it to communicate with his friends on Fox News, to poke his rivals, to announce wild swings in policy, and to pump up the brand of President of the United States.
Another subject of fascination is the language he uses when he uses it. Trump’s tweets are full of seemingly random capitalized words, tortured run-on sentences, short admonitions that sound like they’re commands to a dog (“NO!” “BAD!” “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”), and pictures from his travails pretending to lead the free world.
One of my personal favorite Trump Twitter Quirks is his use of parentheses. According to grammarbook.com, parentheses should be used “to enclose information that clarifies or is used as an aside.”
Most Trump parentheses are asides with no real reason for existing. He also clarifies information that doesn’t really need to be clarified, re-stating or contradicting information he’s literally just given us. There seems to be no real methodology to their use.
Because I love Trump’s scattershot use of parentheses so much, I decided to go through all his tweets for 2018 so far and take a quick look at each one. Was it needed? Was it helpful? Did it even make sense? What was he attempting to communicate in his usage of it? Was there a hidden meaning we just didn’t grasp? Read on, dear reader:
The President wasted little time in 2018 using an incorrectly applied parenthesis. According to Washington, DC’s website, the correct name of the nation’s capital is “Washington, DC.” It’s also written as “Washington, D.C.” By using a parenthesis, Trump implies that some people might think he’s flying to Washington the state. Which nobody thought.
This is part two of a rant against the New York Times. I can’t remember what he was upset about, but the parenthesis is part of a disturbing prediction about winning the 2020 election. It’s correctly used, but weird.
Trump pumps up Orrin Hatch with this parenthetical. Hatch paid Trump back for his kindness by calling him “the greatest President in American history,” then denying that he did.
Remember 17 years ago when “Fire and Fury” came out? This parenthesis contradicts the author’s recollections of essentially being allowed to come and go as he pleased. It could have been its own sentence.
A useless clarification. Of course the mainstream media is fake, and right wing infotainment is the truth. Sad!
This is a well-used parenthesis that’s actually kind of funny. Of course, the tweet is riddled with other random grammatical errors.
More useless clarification in a tweet gloating over a screwup by ABC News. Naturally, the most recent stock market downturn, caused by the president’s seemingly random application of tariffs, has not been tweeted about in the same way.
This is part two of the tweet that gave us “mental stability and being, like, really smart.” The parenthesis is a total lie, of course, as he ran in 2000 on the Reform Party ticket, dropping out after three months.
Another properly-used aside, used to attack a co-equal branch of the government. Nothing to see here, folks.
This was the center of a short-lived kerfuffle over whether the president was delusional, or merely aspirationally delusional. Why did he think he had to tell us who the leader of North Korea is? Does he think we don’t know? Does he think we think he doesn’t know? I don’t know.
He’s quoting a Fox News talking head. I have no idea what it means.
I get what he’s trying to say, but it’s nonsensically written. It’s also a lie.
An informational parenthesis. Incidentally, that race is a toss-up in a district where Democrats didn’t even bother running anyone in 2016.
Trump is lugubriously stumping for Republicans to get a super-majority in the 2018 midterms. “And border” is not a sentence.
The parenthesis is a mess of a run-on sentence, but the President putting his own name in quotation marks is the really fascinating part of this tweet. The botching of “their/there” is also a nice touch. This is the prototypical Trump tweet: long, incoherent, and completely false.
A week goes by between parentheses. What is the “more” is supposed to be?
The president publicly puzzles over various immigration bills, none of which would go anywhere because of misconceptions like “dangerous criminals” getting “amnesty.”
Trump incomprehensibly adds weird detail to a tweet gaslighting one of the women accusing him of sexual abuse. Nice.
Trump attempts to justify his unilateral laying of tariffs on steel and aluminum by claiming “many other” industries are being hurt by bad trade deals, without offering any evidence. The tariffs have brought condemnation by both left and right, fears of a looming recession, and threats of economic retaliation by the EU and Canada.
The meeting was good. But it was also great. It’s like words don’t even mean anything.
Thank you for the clarification, Mr. President. What other country could he even be talking about? Why tell us this? Why any of it!?!
Here is the president threatening to make the burgeoning economic disaster from his tariff proposal worse by apply more tariffs. Also, other than luxury and older muscle cars, American autos don’t sell particularly well in Europe, for a variety of reasons that aren’t related to tariffs. The parenthesis is completely unnecessary.
What Trump is saying in the parenthesis simply isn’t true, and everyone knows it. The FBI didn’t start investigating the Trump campaign because a Trump campaign adviser got caught drunkenly bragging to an Australian diplomat about hacked Hillary Clinton emails, who turned around and called the FBI when those emails showed up online. Even the fabled Nunes memo, written by a Republican congressman totally in thrall to Trump, can’t pretend otherwise.
There has literally never been a White House with more turnover than Trump’s. He’s lost one third of the staff he started with, and half of the top tier positions have had at least two people cycle through them – compared with one person total for Obama and George W. Bush. How’s that “perfection seeking” going?
He’s not, of course.
Another parenthesis that could have been its own thought. And it’s likely that the rally crowd was happy because Trump rallies are unhinged Two Minutes Hate events, not because of the overheated economy.
This is part two of a deliciously incoherent string of thoughts about gun control. I’ve read the two tweets half a dozen times and have no idea what Mr. Trump is trying to express, other than he’s talked to people about things, and he remembers some of the individual words. Perhaps he’s not getting “much political support” because nobody knows what the hell he wants.
A double parenthesis! Trump tweeted this to justify the admission that he made up a bunch of crap to fool Justin Trudeau, and then got called out on it. We don’t have a trade defect with Canada, and Trump’s tweet explaining his remark is as incoherent as the remark.
Two blather-filled tweets with three parentheses, as the president attacks his predecessors, babbles some right wing conspiracy stuff, and blames Obama for stuff. The parentheses aren’t even the most troubling thing here. What is the “coming Arms Race???”
As of this moment, it’s not clear whether the president will sign the Omnibus. He’ll probably spout some nonsense about how it’s a terrible bill, then sign it, because it’s a great bill. Also keep in mind that the only reason he’s talking about DACA is because he unilaterally ended it, kicked the can to Congress, then refused to sign on to any proposal they gave him.
So, there’s all of Trump’s parenthesis tweets for 2018. As we’ve seen from these copious examples, they’re almost always used superfluously, add little to the thought trying to be expressed, and could easily be removed.
So basically, it’s the Trump presidency.