Trump’s Vocabulary

As a child, I discovered the thesaurus and loved finding synonyms for words. My parents had the old-fashioned kind, organized conceptually instead of alphabetically, and I spent hours making word lists. As a writer, I love the thesaurus.

As a teacher, I stressed vocabulary. I pushed students to learn more words, telling them a strong vocabulary would help  in reading and writing. I created lists from class readings and from news articles.  I let students find words from their own reading and I’d use their selections to create a class list. For fun, we’d open a page in the dictionary and pick several words from the page and the next.

A list of between 10-20 words would last about 10 days. Students would look up the definitions and the parts of speech and write sentences using the words. They’d share their sentences on the board. They’d write stories with the words and create quizzes for peers, swapping with a classmate, and returning the quizzes to be corrected by the writer. We’d play vocabulary bingo and have spelling bees. All to increase their familiarity with more and more words.

As a grandmother, I love sharing children’s literature with my grandkids. When there’s a word they don’t know, we discuss its meaning. They learn, and sometimes these words creep into their conversations.

So along comes our president with his limited vocabulary. I remember watching one of the debates and counting the number of times I heard “huge” or “fantastic” or “great.” And I’m not the only one noticing.

As writer Philip Roth wrote in The New Yorker, referring to Trump “…wielding a vocabulary of seventy-seven words that is better called Jerkish than English.”

Yet this lack of vocabulary apparently isn’t a sign of lack of intelligence. As this article says, Trump’s ability to use repetition with his limited vocabulary proved an effective tool to garner support.

However let’s remember he lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes. I’m willing to bet most voters would prefer a president with a larger vocabulary than who we have in office and someone who could use his words in ways that don’t insult foreign leaders, members of the judiciary, members of the press, and citizens.




About cyclingrandma

I was a journalist (Danbury News-Times, Ct), before becoming a teacher, and continue to write for professional journals. I have written several study guides for Penguin Books and write for Education Update, a newspaper based in New York City. ( I’ve interviewed many authors, college presidents, and scientists. I wrote “The Kentucky Derby’s Forgotten Jockeys” for Smithsonian Magazine's website, (April, 2009). Two essays have been published in book anthologies; one for Wisdom of Our Mothers, (Familia Books) and the other in “College Search and Parent Rescue: Essay for Parents by Parents of College-Going Students.” (St. Martin’s Press). I was a middle school Language Arts teacher for more than 10 years and have just completed a five year grant position under No Child Left Behind in Newark, NJ public schools. I have three children, two daughters-in law, and six grandchildren. I'm an avid cyclist, knitter, cook, and reader. I love theater, museums, and yoga.
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5 Responses to Trump’s Vocabulary

  1. Colline says:

    He certainly doesn’t sound well-read.


  2. Drjcwash says:

    I so agree. I spend hours with everything I write trying not to start each sentence the same way. I hate twitter and even texting. I do find my answers to text are “great, fantastic, ok, sounds good, or call me” Trump has made me hate to hear the announcement that there is a special announcement from the President.
    He appeals to those who like sound bites. That’s why I can’t watch some TV shows.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My sentiments exactly. ……also love Azariah’s picurest


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