Winning Bigly

Who could not be constantly delighted by Donald Trump’s glorious mangling of the English language? Not eloquent, exactly, not Ciceronian, but pungent. Idiosyncratic. Even downright peculiar.

He is fond, for example, of doing things bigly. He likes to win bigly (and, god help us, if he is not currently winning bigly, he is definitely winning a bit biglier than hitherto – and yes, I am aware that in his head he is probably saying big league, not bigly).

Would I correct a student who told me his or her company was currently winning bigly? Certainly not. I would let it slide, while internally marvelling. Students sometimes speak a version of English which is not English but is somehow better than English (as a colleague of mine once remarked when one of our students told us he hadn’t spent much time in the Fez Club the night before because the music there was “horrible b……t”). I once taught an Italian student who described for me what sort of a person he had been in his ‘yauthness’ (youth rhyming with south, rather than truth). Hwaet! I thought, this one speaks Anglo-Saxon. And I waited agog to see if he would start talking about the whaleroads and the flotman.

He didn’t. But it was a memorable moment. He had taken a guess, and he had guessed bigly. It was not eloquence, to be sure, but it was in its way better than eloquence. Eloquence suggests polish and facility; but it does not allow for the bizarre.

Teachers, clearly, should not be jumping on our students mistakes like trapdoor spiders. They should allow the voice of the individual to peep through the mass of convention and expectation. And in truth (in trauthness!) it is impossible to prevent. We do not want all our students speaking with the dull perfection of a Luxembourg banker. We like a little crazy mixed in here and there. And if our students do not all master the language, they can at least hope to express themselves bigly along the way.

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