Monday, July 10, 2017

President Trump & Word Association

As a lover of words, I am of course interested in the following Quinnipiac poll which asked responders "What is the first word that comes to mind when you think of Donald Trump?"  The list provides endless fodder for analysis of speaker meaning.  The top two answers were "idiot" and "incompetent."  Did the speakers mean some subtle difference between those terms?  What about any meant difference between those two terms and such other terms as "unqualified," "ignorant," "stupid," and "clown"?  The third most frequent response is "liar."  Was "liar" meant in a different sense from "dishonest" or "con-man" which pop up later in the list?  Is "leader" (fourth on the list) a complement or is it a factual statement such as "president"  (sixth on the list)?  What about "trying"?  Does that mean the man is attempting to succeed (my guess but it's only a guess) or that he is "causing strain, hardship, or distress" (American Heritage College Dictionary 4th ed.)?  I also wonder how Originalists like Neil Gorsuch would interpret and parse each word in this list.  Reasonable contemporaneous readers can of course draw wildly different conclusions about the meanings of these words.

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