Ever since the explosive Access Hollywood tape of Donald Trump’s “grab ’em by the p*ssy” remark was revealed a few weeks before the 2016 presidential election, the asterisk has been used in deference to the sensibilities of polite company that might read and be offended by the Fifth Avenue Fraudster’s statement. But Trump never seems charming or polite in any company, and another more recent outrageous utterance by the president-as-asterisk may serve to define him.
When the subject is Donald Trump, there’s usually something way out of the ordinary going on with him. But in the particular Trumpian matter before us, it’s not so much about collusion but, instead, confusion.
For nearly three years, the American public has been subjected to seeing the grab ’em comment always couched with an asterisk or two, and this might have further confused the very confused Donald Trump. It may have something to do with him thinking he’s a star because of that starburst symbol tacked on to any reference about him. Said another way, he’s confused his current role from that of a Reality TV host from another time to the expected model of a head of state.
Then there was his remark about s*ithole countries. Or was that written s***hole?
To put it mildly, Donald Trump is no latter-year saint of state. No shit.
He became president with an asterisk next to his name because he lost by 3,000,000 votes to Hillary Clinton but still won the Oval Office. But then he created a need for another use of the ever-useful symbol, and the Hollywood Access tape has kept print as well as video editors busy ever since inserting asterisks at the appropriate point in text or audio.
But it seems that everything changed as a result of Trump’s deranged two hour speech before the CPAC convention. The asterisk president clearly has editors and webmasters in a quandary.
Look at this headline from the website Grabien and then examine the treatment of Trump’s language in the body of this news site’s summary of his speech, as shown under the headline:
TRUMP UNLOADS ON MUELLER: ‘THEY’RE TRYING TO TAKE YOU OUT WITH BULLSHIT’
“We had the greatest of all time. Now we have people that lost, and unfortunately you put the wrong people in a couple of positions, and they leave people for a long time that shouldn’t be there. And all of a sudden, they are trying to take you out with bullsh**, okay? With bullsh**.”
Yeah, what bullshit from the bull****er-in-chief. Are you okay with that?
The generous use of the asterisk and its presumed abuse in these times brings back fond memories of the many years of my involvement in a summer writing workshop for teachers. After the two-day experience at the end of the school year, attendees were provided resources for their use in developing other strategies to assist in the teaching of writing for elementary, middle, and high school students. One of my favorite resources then and now is the Apostrophe Protection Society, an organization based in the United Kingdom whose avowed purpose is for “preserving the correct use of this currently much abused punctuation mark in all forms of text written in the English language.”
The Society is to be commended for its work in helping to protect our language, particularly for those who have difficulty with the correct usage for it’s and its. But that raises another concern.
A recent Google search did not reveal the existence of a similarly named organization to protect the asterisk. But there is no doubt that the increasing use of the symbol in this Age of Trump raises the question of another kind of abuse which demands protection from a learned and purposeful organization like the Apostrophe Protection Society.
In an essay published several years ago entitled “The Risks of Using Asterisks in Place of Swearwords”, The Guardian advised that
Omitting letters can confuse. How is the poor reader expected to differentiate between b******* and b*******?
Since this article was written, dear reader, we’ve seen our language become coarser, and no doubt Dear Leader (looks like dear reader, doesn’t it?) bears some of the responsibility in inflicting wear and tear on the asterisk. As we continue to see this symbol, which has migrated from its use as a reference to an annotation in text and, now, as a placeholder for omitted letters in a profanity, we might sigh and exclaim, of coarse. Pun.
“You campaign in poetry; you govern in prose,” the late New York Governor Mario Cuomo liked to say. Yet there is neither poetry nor coherent prose when it comes to T*ump.
While we’re at it, toss in the lack of governance along with the abnormal level of wear and tear on the language.
But with Trump, we may change Cuomo’s dictum to “you campaign with insults; you govern with asterisks.”
If there is any truth to that assertion, it is time to establish the Asterisk Protection Society as a defense against the president. In the meantime, Donald, watch your f***in’ language.
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